Belfast Telegraph

Coast Guard volunteer who died in search operation 'an inspiration'

The family of a Coast Guard volunteer who died in a search operation have remembered her as an inspirational hero.

Thousands of relatives, friends and staff from the emergency services paid respects to Caitriona Lucas at her funeral at St Brigid's Church, Liscannor, Co Clare.

The mother-of-two - an artist, librarian, animal lover and life-saver - died on Monday when the rescue boat she was in with two colleagues capsized in heavy Atlantic swell off Kilkee.

As scores of Irish Coast Guard staff, in their distinctive black uniforms and white peaked caps, flanked the entrance to the church, Ms Lucas's husband Bernard and son Ben fought back tears to describe their loss.

Taking a leaf from his wife's philosophy on life, the widower told mourners: "Don't put things off, do them now. Time is short. Life is very precious."

With a trembling voice, the couple's 20-year-old son gave mourners in the packed church and grounds a glowing insight into his mother.

"My mother was an exceptional person in every way," he said.

"She loved life and gave everything she did 100%.

"She loved the sea and the Coast Guard, her work in the library, especially with the projects she did with the children.

"My mother had lots of great qualities. She was caring, loving, kind and above all dedicated.

"She was an inspiration to everyone around her and I always will remember her smile and her laugh.

"She will be missed by everyone and she will always be in our thoughts and our hearts.

"Goodbye to our wonderful mother. Love always. You are my hero."

Before the mass a video compiled by Ms Lucas's 18-year-old daughter Emma was played showing aspects of her mother's life.

Ms Lucas, 41 and originally from Ballyvaughan, Co Clare, was the first member of the Irish Coast Guard to die on duty.

She and her husband Bernard volunteered with the Doolin unit.

Ms Lucas had gone to sea off Kilkee on Monday in the search for missing teacher David McMahon, 33, from Lisseycassey, Co Clare.

Two colleagues, who were also thrown into the sea in the accident, coxswain James Lucy and Jenny Carraway, were rescued and suffered minor injuries.

Mourners heard how the family had kayaked the River Inagh last week and planned another trip.

Ms Lucas had also planned a Roald Dahl weekend for children at the library to mark the 100th anniversary of the writer's birthday, including painting windows and preparing masks for youngsters to complete.

Parish priest Father Denis Crosby told mourners flags were flying at half-mast as a mark of respect.

"To salute a great spirit, to salute a spirit of service and a gracious, wonderful woman," the priest said.

"Words will not sum up the occasion."

Fr Crosby recalled Ms Lucas's compassion, generosity and child-like spirit.

"She carried the light wonderfully into our world. She was a light in a world that's very often dark and careless," he said.

Fr Crosby said Ms Lucas embodied the spirit of helping a neighbour and recalled how she overcame her fear of heights while training to be a rescue volunteer and once went over a cliff edge in Carrigaholt to save a dog.

"In Caitriona's life we have the perfect living out and embodiment of the mystery of love. It wasn't just words and talk but actions and commitment.

"To give your life doesn't mean just to die. She gave her life, all her life, and she knew that living means giving.

"And the creed and the colour and the name didn't matter. As long as there was need she was there. First always to answer the call."

The funeral was attended by Shane Ross, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, and representatives of President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Ms Lucas was buried in Kilmacreehy cemetery, Liscannor, with the thousands of mourners walking the road to the graveyard overlooking the Atlantic and the beach in nearby Lahinch.

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