Lough Ree RNLI was the busiest lifeboat station in Ireland last year. According to figures released by the lifeboat charity the crew at Lough Ree launched 69 times in 2014 bringing some 142 people to safety.
Of the calls made last year, 20 were in relation to the three anglers from Northern Ireland who went missing last March. During that search the volunteer lifeboat crew were out day and night and weekends.
Speaking to the Athlone Advertiser Damien Delaney, Lough Ree RNLI Lifeboat operations manager, said that the reason the station, which is based in Coosan Point is busy is due to the large number of leisure craft on the lake.
“It’s a large lake with its own inherent dangers. The weather can change quickly, diminishing visibility. Also the summer of 2014 was very dry - especially from May to July/August. The weather encouraged more people out onto the water. Generally we have a lot of families and groups on the lake, hence the high numbers of people rescued - you could have four to six people in one boat.”
Mr Delaney also pointed out that not all calls were for boats that were in immediate danger. “When you’ve families on board with young children panic can set in very fast, so we try to get out to them as soon as possible.”
The Lough Ree station has been in operation since June 2012, and disussions are currently ongoing regarding the establishment of a permanent base for Lough Ree RNLI. Mr Delaney said he was hopeful that a decision would be made before the summer.
Lough Ree RNLI is made up of 36 volunteers including 19 boat crew and 10 shore crew, with the rest involved in fundraising and education. Volunteers also give talks in schools and crew members will be checking lifejackets during the forthcoming angling competition on Lough Ree this spring.
The Lough Ree lifeboat is in operation 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, working with the national coastguard.
They’re always looking for new volunteers. “Being a volunteer is a huge commitment. Half of them are self-employed, so any time they are on the lake they are losing money. Those who are in employment are also making a huge commitment, as are their employers who release them from work,” said Mr Delaney.
For more information find Lough Ree RNLI on Facebook.