Rescue services hailed as heroes

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Published on: August 17, 2011

By Eoin English, Baltimore for Irish Examiner

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

SOME of the world’s top professional sailors have hailed as heroes the volunteer Irish lifeboat crew and emergency services that helped save their lives on Monday night.

As George David, the American millionaire owner of the stricken Rambler 100 yacht recovered from Monday’s ordeal, he led tributes to the brave Baltimore RNLI crew and the Irish Coast Guard who were involved in their dramatic rescue off the south coast.

“The fact that we had a 100% outcome with no tragedy is due to the skills and professionalism and calm behaviour displayed by the crew,” Mr David said.

“But the rescue services were great too — the lifeboat crew who picked up 16 people from the hull of the yacht, the Wave Chieftain which picked five up from the water, and the helicopter lift.

“Everyone’s in good shape. I’d like to thank the people of Baltimore and the rescue services.”

Rambler 100’s project manager, seasoned Australian yachtsman Mick Harvey, was below deck with the vessel’s navigator, Peter Isler, when he heard the keel snap, shortly after the vessel rounded the Fastnet Rock at about 5.30pm.

“I was down below when we heard the sickening sound of the keel breaking off,” he said. “It was instantaneous — there was no time to react. The boat turned turtle, just like a dinghy capsizing. Peter Isler issued a mayday and we got out of there as quickly as we could.

“It was a scary moment, one that I will never forget.”

Sixteen crew members climbed onto the hull and were later rescued by Baltimore RNLI. But five were swept into the sea, including skipper George David and his partner, Wendy Touton.

They all linked arms and were in the water for two-and-a-half hours before they were found by the Baltimore RNLI crew member Gerry Smith, on board his vessel, Wave Chieftain.

Ms Touton, who was suffering from extreme hypothermia, was airlifted to Kerry General Hospital but was discharged last night after making a full recovery.

“I can’t begin to tell you how relieved I am that all of the crew are safe,” Mr Harvey said. “The town of Baltimore has given us a wonderful welcome. I cannot thank our rescuers and the people of this lovely village enough.”

But the experienced RNLI officer who led the dramatic rescue played down his crew’s involvement.

Baltimore RNLI coxswain Kieran Cotter said he and his team are focused now on securing the development of a €3.5 million lifeboat station.

Once planning permission is secured, the way will also be cleared for the delivery of two new lifeboat vessels, estimated to cost some €4m.

The stricken yacht Rambler 100 was towed to a sheltered cove last night, ahead of a major salvage operation today.

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