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Six and a half years after losing her life during the course of a coast guard operation, there will be an inquest in to the death of the late Caitriona Lucas.

Welcome for decision to finally hold Caitriona Lucas inquest

THE Irish Coast Guard Volunteer Representative Association (ICGVRA) has welcomed the decision to hold a coroner’s inquest into the death of Irish Coastguard volunteer and mother-of-two Caitriona Lucas (41) – more than six and a half years after her death.

The Limerick Coroner’s Office has confirmed this inquest will take place at Kilmallock Courthouse in County Limerick on April 12 after Ms Lucas lost her life during an Irish coastguard search operation at Kilkee in west Clare on September 12th 2016.

ICGVRA chairman, John O’Mahony said the association are in close contact with her husband, Bernard Lucas and its considers it is about time this inquest was held.

Mr O’Mahony said he received an email from the Limerick coroner on Friday last and sent it to Mr Lucas.

The group chairman said the association hopes to engage with the coroner’s office and plan to send them their issues with the MCIB report into Caitríona’s death and a list of those people that were closely involved in the search at Kilkee Coast Guard in September 2016 but were not interviewed by the MCIB.

Welcoming this decision, Bernard Lucas told the Clare Champion it is long overdue.

“I am looking forward to the coroner’s findings because there are a lot of questions that need to be answered,” he said.

The delay in holding an inquest has been highlighted by the ICGVRA and Senator Gerard Craughwell who has written to the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) requesting a full investigation into claims that a life jacket used by Ms Lucas may have been faulty before she tragically lost her life.

Ms Lucas had offered to help out the neighbouring Coast Guard unit from Kilkee in the search for a missing man, but she died after its rigid inflatable boat (RIB) capsized in a shallow surf zone on September 12, 2016.

Two other crew members on board the RIB, who were also thrown into the sea, survived.

Speaking to the Clare Champion recently, Senator Craughwell confirmed he has written a letter to the HSA to advise them life jackets provided to Coast Guard volunteers in late 2014 and early 2015 were tested in a number of stations around the country, which allegedly failed in all tests.

He has also asked the Comptroller and Auditor General to examine the procurement of this vital life saving equipment.

Senator Craughwell stated in the Seanad, “Evidence has now come to me which suggests that the life jackets in use in the Coast Guard at that time were faulty. There is documentary evidence
that the faults in the life jackets had been reported from 2015, where they failed miserably to turn a person on his or her back.

“Furthermore, there is a suggestion that the life jacket which Ms Lucas was wearing was removed from the scene and has not been seen since.

“I believe the HSA must move immediately to establish what reports were made from 2015 to 2018, and precisely who reported them.

“I am aware of tests that were done in Crosshaven, Cork, in Kerry, in Mayo and in Donegal, and in all cases the life jacket failed or injured the wearer of the life jacket by inflating so violently or only inflated on one side.

“I have the documentary evidence. The HSA should have the documentary evidence and, if it is true that the life jacket was faulty and that the one Ms Lucas was wearing turned her on her face rather than on her back, then I believe there is a case for criminal negligence on somebody’s part.

“A woman has lost her life, a family have lost a mother, and we are six years waiting for an inquest. “The evidence of what happened on that day must be brought to the inquest. Somebody, somewhere has to start answering questions very quickly. I ask the Leader’s office to engage with the Health and Safety Authority to have this matter investigated,” he stated.

The previous day he asked the Leader of the Seanad to write to the coroner in Limerick, asking why an inquest has not been carried out.

“The Lucas family are entitled to closure, and if there are things to come out from that inquest that may be disturbing for people, then so be it. Let that happen but let us have the inquest,” he stated.

A Department of Transport spokesperson stated the HSA and the MCIB carried out an investigation into the fatal incident involving the Kilkee Coast Guard Rigid Inflatable Boat which occurred on the 12th of September 2016.

The Coast Guard facilitated and cooperated with both investigations. The MCIB published their report MCIB/266 (No7 of 2018) in 2018.

As Ms Lucas was pronounced dead in University Hospital Limerick, responsibility for her inquest is with the Limerick coroner’s office.

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