Lough Ree RNLI lifeboat crew received their first callout of 2016 on Sunday, January 3, when a man living aboard a barge was marooned by a strong river current on the Shannon in Athlone.
The barge is moored below the old railway bridge in Athlone where rising waters have covered the jetty, leaving the man on board surrounded by water and unable to safely reach the shore except by use of his tender dinghy. The river was flowing fast at this location and the dinghy broke free. It was later retrieved downstream and tied up at a nearby location; however, the man on the barge was unable to reach it.
Lough Ree RNLI lifeboat was paged at 2.35pm and made its way to the scene. Progress was hampered first at the motorway bridge where the crew found the clearance greatly reduced, but they succeeded in passing through at low speed. Progress towards the White Bridge was slow because of the amount of debris in the water, and because navigation markers were difficult to sight due to them being almost totally submerged.
Manoeuvring through the White Bridge required further care and skill, due to the speed of water flow and the narrowness of the navigable section of the bridge. Lough Ree RNLI Lifeboat helm, Stan Bradbury, said: “The river is moving very fast in Athlone at the moment, and contains debris of various sizes. Even shallow waters can be very dangerous under these conditions. We were glad to be of service in retrieving the tender and further securing the barge to its underwater moorings.”