Innovative life saving water rescue robots to reduce River Shannon tragedies

RONAN FAGAN

A prominent feature enhancing Athlone, the River Shannon has also been the scene of much heartache with lives unfortunately lost to the strong flowing waterway current.

With the sole purpose of reducing such tragedy instances, the Athlone River Safety Awareness Group have purchased two rescue robots in an attempt to save more lives.

These robotic lifebuoys can be cast into the River Shannon should a person enter the water and can then be operated by remote control from the banks of the waterway.

Athlone is the first town in the country to use such life saving equipment and this past weekend, a multi-agency training exercise involving local gardaí, the RNLI and the Athlone Sub-Aqua club took place to highlight the vital importance of such rescue robots usage.

Welcoming the development, Athlone River Safety Awareness chairperson, Cllr O’Rourke, expressed his gratitude to all those who have supported the fundraising cause to enable purchase of two rescue robots.

“Athlone River Safety Awareness was established in 2019. Since then, we have been working hard to raise the necessary funding to enable purchase the equipment required, to complete the relevant training and to raise the awareness that is so badly needed in Athlone when it comes to safety on and close to the water.

“I am pleased to say that thanks to the generosity of many groups, individuals, associations and businesses in Athlone, we now have the equipment we need, located in two steel, secure boxes on both sides of the river. The ‘Yellow Rescue Boxes’ are located near the Friary on the east side of the river and near Sean’s Bar on the west side.

“In years gone by, if a person entered the water in town it generally ended with a recovery operation, and unfortunately, rarely ever a rescue. Passers-by did not know how to react in many circumstances and local businesses or residents were often of a similar mindset.

“So, our objective is to change all that. Our goal is to give people a fighting chance should they find themselves in the water. We will train the emergency services in the use of our life saving equipment and we will train a group of up to 30 volunteers who can then be called upon to attend the scene in the event of an emergency on the river.

“We have a range of equipment, which if required, will without doubt dramatically improve the chances of survival should someone enter the water.

“Now, we are launching our capabilities to the public and are doing so in the hope that volunteers will join our Athlone River Safety Awareness group,” Cllr O’Rourke asserted.

Cllr O’Rourke noted that the water rescue robots were the most dynamic and practical life saving devices invented to date.

“Our latest and most impressive piece of recue equipment is our water rescue robot. The water robot is a remote controlled quick deploy device which we simply cast into the water and drive via remote control to the person who has unfortunately entered the river. The first of its kind in Ireland, I believe the robot is the most exciting, dynamic and practical water rescue device ever invented.

“Should there be an emergency on the river in Athlone we use a dedicated rescue app which all trained volunteers have on our phones. The alarm is discharged and we as volunteers go to the scene, take control of the area and deploy the rescue equipment.

“We work very closely with Lough Ree RNLI and the Coastguard in Malin. We use VHF radios to connect us directly to these posts so the rescue mission is professionally co-ordinated,” Cllr O’Rourke commented.

The Athlone River Safety Awareness Group chairperson is now calling upon personnel who work or reside in close proximity to the river to become a volunteer.

“We are calling on those who live or work close to the river in the urban part of Athlone to volunteer. Living or working in close proximity to either the Strand area or the Quays area is important. All essential training will be provided. If interested people should visit our website and click the ‘volunteer now’ button and enter their details.

“Our volunteers have already saved lives in the past year thanks to the work and training carried out by the Athlone River Safety Awareness Group. We now aim to broaden our service and we need volunteers to enable us to do that,” Cllr O’Rourke remarked.

Concluding, Cllr O’Rourke, expressed his gratitude to all those organisations who have provided invaluable support, advice, training and funding since the formation of the Athlone River Safety Awareness Group in 2019.

“To the many organisations who have supported our cause to date - Athlone Anglers Association, the members and friends of Athlone Regional Sports Centre, Athlone Court House, Westmeath County Council, HSE, Order of Malta Athlone, Defence Forces Athlone, Athlone Sub Aqua, Athlone Boat Club, Sean’s Bar, Midland Print & Signs, OPW, Waterways Ireland, Liam O’Connor, An Garda Siochana Athlone and many others for their support, the purchase of such life saving devices would not have been possible without your ongoing support,” Cllr O’Rourke concluded.

 

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