Champion Community Volunteer Category:
Catriona Lucas Set Out On High Seas To Save Lives And Lost Her Own Life
Sometimes it takes a real life tragedy to fully appreciate the work of community volunteers and nowhere is the work of volunteers so much at personal risk than in the role of a Coastguard Volunteer.
That reality was fully realised on the morning of 12th September 2016 in Co. Clare when 41 years old, Catriona Lucas, an experienced member of the Doolin Coast Guard team for 10 years, was the victim of a drowning tragedy that made national and international headlines around the globe.
Married to Bernard, also a member of the Doolin Coastguard team and a native of Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare, Catriona was the mother of Ben and Emma.
Catriona was part of a team responding to an emergency call received around 8.45am reporting a person in the water on the West Clare coastline. Doolin Coastguard located the missing person and a search and rescue helicopter winched an East European woman on board and transferred her to Galway University Hospital where she was some hours later pronounced dead.
Meantime the lifeboat crew were also searching for a man reported missing on the previous week.
In an unprecedented twist of fate, three crew members were thrown from their Delta Rigid inflatable boat in rough sea conditions on the Western side of Kilkee Bay.
In this tragic sea accident, Catriona Lucas lost her young life whilst her two colleagues in the lifeboat, also thrown into the sea, were fortunately saved. The sea conditions were rough and the rescue mission for the coastguards was carried out by helicopter.
Caitriona Lucas was a member of that extraordinary group of voluntary men and women who dedicate their skills, time and passion, so that others may be safe on our Irish coastlines.
A terrible tragedy combined with the loss of a brave and valiant Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare woman, resulted in the most heroic and unselfish loss of a persons life. This remarkable courage and heroism in the service of others is rarely equaled and seldom surpassed.
We always hear how the Coast Guard risk their lives for others but you always hope that something like this will never happen.
Bernard Lucas, who met his wife when she was just 17, in an interview later recalled details of their lives together and said I met Caitriona when she was 17, and from then on we were more or less together ever since. We did pretty much everything together.
Catriona and her husband shared a number of common interests including outdoor pursuits and their volunteer roles in the coastguard. They were involved in many rescue missions together.
After her tragic death Bernard Lucas said “he returned to the coastguard within weeks”.
“It’s what we did… it’s what we do, It’s what Caitriona did and loved, I suppose I get comfort from it,” he said.
He also appealed for people to think about getting involved in their local Coastguard unit.
Caitriona was honoured by her colleagues in the coastguard and also as Clare Person of the Year, since her tragic death.
In an unprecedented situation of selecting candidates for our Champion Community Volunteers category, we have disregarded age factor in the knowledge that the majority of volunteers considered for our Irish Heritage website are primarily of senior citizen category.
Catriona Lucas believed when going to sea on that fateful September Day in 2016, she would ride in to the sunset with her husband Bernard and her two children, Ben and Emma and possibly her grandchildren, and enjoy a blissful retirement.
In acknowledging the role of all coastguards around the Irish coastlines, we salute their bravery and willingness to save other peoples lives whilst placing their own lives in grave danger.
The enrolment of the late Catriona Lucas in our All Ireland Hall Of Fame as a Champion Community Volunteer will remain insitu on our website indefinitely and act as a special reminder to Irish people around the globe, that volunteering as a Coastguard is reserved only for very special people.
Derry JF Doody