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Caitríona and Bernard Lucas in 2014.

‘Critical lessons’ must be learned from death of Caitriona Lucas

The family of the late Caitriona Lucas say that “critical lessons” must be learned from the North Clare woman’s death while on duty with the coastguard in 2016.
A jury of four men and three women returned a verdict of death by misadventure yesterday evening, Thursday, following a four day sitting of the coroners court in Limerick.
In a statement read after the verdict, the Lucas family was critical of the Irish Coastguard, saying that its failures to have proper safety systems in place caused the death of Caitriona Lucas.
The family also highlighted the failure of the authorities to act on a 2012 report, which called for a senior safety systems manager to be installed in the Irish Coast Guard.
In their statement they also said that the minister in charge of the Department of Transport in 2012 “should be held to account”.
When delivering their verdict, the jurors said that a number of recommendations to enhance safety should be implemented by the coastguard.
These recommendations include improved training, a review of training in relation to capsized vessels and a review of all safety gear used by coastguard volunteers.
Members of the Lucas family were unhappy at the length of time it took for the inquest to take place, with critical lessons and changes to coastguard policy being delayed by seven years.
Earlier this week, the inquest heard evidence from a Health and Safety Authority (HSA) inspector who said the she didn’t get the co-operation required for her to do her job, while investigating the circumstances of Ms Lucas’ death.
HSA Inspector, Helen McCarthy told the court the HSA had to get legal advice and it was nine months before she was able to carry out her investigation, following advice from the Attorney General.
“It was the first fatality of a volunteer, so it was unknown territory for everybody,” she explained.
Later in her investigation, she said that she was not permitted to take Ms Lucas’ dry-suit into evidence, but was allowed to take photographs of the item of clothing.
Under questioning, the inspector could not say why she was not permitted to take the suit into evidence.
Ms Lucas, a member of the Doolin Unit of the Irish Coastguard, died while on active duty in Kilkee in September of 2016.
During the course of a search, a freak wave capsized the rigid inflatable boat in which she had put to sea, with two other crew members.

Andrew Hamilton

Andrew Hamilton is a journalist, writer and podcaster based in the west of Ireland.

About Andrew Hamilton

Andrew Hamilton is a journalist, writer and podcaster based in the west of Ireland.

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