Thursday 21 February 2019

Rescue crews called out to windsurfers as storm blowing in

Windsurfers at Blackrock as a rescue helicopter hovers overhead
Windsurfers at Blackrock as a rescue helicopter hovers overhead

The Irish Kitesurfing Association has defended the "shocking behaviour" of windsurfers who had to be assisted by the emergency services yesterday while out at sea, just hours before Ophelia struck.

The group insisted that the five windsurfers who were in the sea off Blackrock, Co Louth, yesterday morning "were out in moderate-to-strong conditions which had been risk assessed".

"At some point members of the public became concerned and gardai spent some time trying to call them in," said spokesman Colm Murphy.

At 10.20am, the Irish Coast Guard was dispatched to assist, along with the Clogherhead lifeboat and Greenore Coast Guard.

The windsurfers made their way to shore unharmed.

But there was much condemnation of their actions yesterday as the country prepared for the worst.

"It must be stressed that we, as watersports enthusiasts, study the maps and weather charts comprehensively all the time," said Mr Murphy.

"Decisions will have been made on Sunday night to risk assess the conditions, knowing that the winds would be lighter until 1pm on the east coast.

"It is unfortunate that the emergency services were called to assist experienced surfers who were not in danger."

A spokesman for the Irish Coast Guard said that the windsurfers were able to make their own way back to shore, but reminded people that the advice was to "stay back, stay high and stay dry" and avoid the winds (below).

He added that the Rescue 116 helicopter as well as the Greenore Coast Guard and Clogherhead lifeboat had responded to the incident.


Gardai from Dundalk spoke to the windsurfers afterwards.

"Our message is to heed the weather warning, which is the highest that we have. It is not issued lightly," said Clogherhead spokesman Gerry Kelly.

Louth county councillor Maria Doyle criticised the windsurfers.

"People are shocked at anybody putting the emergency services at risk. This is thrill-seeking type of behaviour and it is shocking," she said.

Elsewhere, footage emerged of a man swimming in Salthill, Co Galway, while Storm Ophelia raged.

The man was seen swimming along the promenade as waves crashed against the shore.

A woman told RTE Radio One's Liveline that people had been swimming at the Forty Foot in south Dublin.

Transport Minister Shane Ross said earlier: "Everyone should be staying indoors. The whole emphasis for today is on safety, keeping people alive."

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