The Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) has started an inquiry into a recent incident on the river Corrib where up to 10 people were rescued after their rowing craft were swept towards Galway city’s salmon weir.
he incident was one of two which occurred on the river on January 14 when the river was in full flow and three rowing boats attached to the University of Galway and to Coláiste Iognáid secondary school capsized.
No one was injured, but emergency services in have said the situation involving the university students who were caught on top of the weir was potentially very serious. The sport of rowing is exempt from mandatory lifejacket use.
The MCIB confirmed today that it is carrying out an investigation into the incident.
“A full report will be published in due course”, a spokeswoman confirmed, adding that the board “will not be making any further comment”.
Both incidents occurred between 11am and 12pm on January 14, with the first being the capsize of an octuple or “eight” rowing craft with students from Coláiste Iognáid.
The capsize occurred up river from the weir and across from their clubhouse. All students were rescued by their club safety launches within minutes and taken ashore.
A more serious incident occurred shortly after that when two rowing craft with University of Galway students were swept towards the salmon weir, where they were caught by pontoons and capsized due to the strength of the river flow.
Some 10 rowers – none of whom are obliged to wear lifejackets due to the sport’s exemption – had to be taken from the top of the weir by club safety launches in very challenging conditions.
The Irish Coast Guard confirmed that its Valentia Rescue Coordination Center was alerted through the national 112/999 call answering service. It said it was reported that 10 rowers were “possibly in difficulty at the weir”.
The Galway Fire Service, gardaí, the Sligo-based Coast Guard helicopter, Galway RNLI Lifeboat and Costelloe Bay Coast Guard unit were all tasked to respond.
“During the 112/999 call the caller confirmed all boat occupants had been recovered to the club safety boats responding locally,” the Coast Guard said, and rescue units were standing down.
The University of Galway is compiling an internal report. It said support boats were on the water at the time the two boats capsized and no one was injured.
“All rowers were brought safely from the water to the river bank within minutes,” a spokesman said.
“The university is deeply grateful to other rowing clubs for their support and prompt response. We also thank the emergency services for their rapid response,” he said.
He confirmed the university has engaged with Rowing Ireland, the national representative body, and is reviewing all safety measures and precautions which are in place for our rowing club and other river users.
It said it would cooperate fully with any MCIB inquiry, and would support any initiatives to improve water safety and rescue services on the Corrib.
A spokesperson for Coláiste Iognáid said it was satisfied that all safety procedures were followed when its boat capsized, and said all students were fine and parents were informed.
Speaking on behalf of the Galway water users’ multi-agency group, RNLI Galway operations manager Mike Swan said that a dedicated rescue craft above the weir which was on call 24/7 was essential.
Corrib Rowing and Yachting Club said it supported calls for a dedicated rescue boat, as the nearest service up river is the Corrib-Mask Rescue Service in Lisloughrey, Co Mayo.