Coast Guard helicopters hailed after 1,000 mercy missions in one year
Missions to bring a pregnant woman and an injured boy to hospital have taken Coast Guard helicopter missions to 1,000 in a single year for the first time.
In one flight the Shannon-based Sikorsky Rescue 115 flew the mother-to-be from Inis Mor in the Aran Islands to University Hospital Galway where it later became fog bound.
In the second the Sligo-based helicopter with call sign Rescue 118 attempted to airlift a boy with leg injuries from a rural area where floods prevented ambulance transport.
The Coast Guard said the crew made multiple efforts to land but had to abandon the mission and the youngster was eventually taken out by road.
Last year the helicopter crews completed 914 missions and it is estimated almost 300 lives were saved.
This year is the first time the 1,000 barrier has been cracked in one year since the Search and Rescue (SAR) division was created in 1991.
Rescue 115 completed 330 missions, the Rescue 116 out of Dublin 148, Waterford Rescue 117 made 179 and Sligo Rescue 118 was called to 343 missions.
Gerard O'Flynn, Coast Guard SAR manager, said: "Our helicopter SAR crews are highly trained and dedicated to serve the people in their communities.
"Their professionalism and dedication, as well as high aircraft availability, allows our crews to return people home safely from an even greater number of dangerous situations."
The Irish Coast Guard's (ICG) Sikorsky S92A fleet allow long range missions of up to 365 nautical miles and improved cruising speeds. They are also equipped with enhanced technology, including forward-looking infrared low-light cameras, night sun searchlights, ambulance level paramedic care facilities and satellite communications.
They can also hover in strong crosswinds or tailwinds of up to 35 knots
Chris Reynolds, director, said he is thankful for the professionalism and dedication of the crews.
"I want to thank all the Coast Guard crews at Shannon, Dublin, Waterford and Sligo for their fantastic work throughout the year, moving people from places of danger to places of safety, day and night, winter and summer.
"High aircraft availability is one of the main reasons behind the high number of missions."
In 2015 the helicopter fleet achieved more than 96% operational availability at 15 minutes' notice between 0730 and 2130 and outside of that 45 minutes notice at all four bases.
Mr Reynolds added: "The Coast Guard operates one of the world's most sophisticated SAR services in the world. We are very proud of the service that is delivered by a very special team of men and women dedicated to saving life anywhere in Ireland and in all weathers."