Belfast Telegraph

1,400 rescued by lifeboat crews

More than 1,400 people were rescued by RNLI lifeboat crews from waters in and around Ireland.

Volunteers at the 45 stations on the coast and inland launched 1,089 times with a review of the operations showing more and more people are getting into danger on leisure craft.

The busiest RNLI station in the Republic and Northern Ireland was Lough Ree in Athlone whose crew launched 69 times and brought 142 people to safety.

It was also the location for one of the worst tragedies of last year when two fishermen David Warnock and Daryl Burke drowned when their boat capsized on the lough.

The RNLI said figures for call outs remained similar to 2013 levels but volunteers recorded a 10% increase in the number of people being brought to shore safely.

A breakdown of the work of lifeboat crews showed 536 operations to leisure craft users in distress, 140 for assistance to fishing vessels, 119 rescues of people in difficulty along the shoreline and 185 for people in trouble in the water - a total of 1,414.

RNLI operations manager Owen Medland said the reports from the 45 stations gave a valuable insight into the work of crew and the dangers people find themselves in.

"Overall 35% of our lifeboat call outs were carried out in the hours of darkness. Almost half of the call outs last year were to leisure vessels and of these call outs many were to boats run aground and engine problems," he said.

"Breaking down at sea or on a lough can be a frightening experience. Weather and darkness can turn a bad situation very serious in a matter of minutes. Nobody who sets out thinks anything bad will happen but calling for help early is always the right choice."

Mr Medland also praised volunteer lifeboat and shore crews, supporters and fundraisers and employers who let crew members put to sea.

Howth RNLI was the second busiest station with 62 launches bringing 107 people to safety - their busiest year ever.

After that Enniskillen RNLI on Lough Erne, which operates separate stations on the upper and lower lough, had 59 calls for assistance and 57 people brought ashore; Dun Laoghaire RNLI in south Dublin launched 56 times and brought 55 people to safety; and crews on the Aran Islands off Galway and Arranmore Island off Donegal launched 78 times, helping 80 people.

The RNLI also noted that 2014 saw the opening of the RNLI's 45th lifeboat station in Ireland at Union Hall in south west Cork where a lifeboat will be stationed on trial for a 24 month period.

This year Lough Swilly RNLI in Buncrana, Donegal will become the first station in Ireland to receive the new 2.4 million euro (£1.8 million) Shannon class lifeboat.

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