A MAJOR cross border multi agency rescue operation was put into place on Monday 11th August when more than 200 people in 87 dinghies were reported to be in difficulty in the stormy waters at Strangford Lough, County Down.
The boats were taking part in the Exe Sails GP14 2014 World Championship which involved sailors from Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, the UK and Australia.
Ten sailors were injured while more than 20 others were rescued from the water. Six people were brought to the Ulster Hospital while others were treated at the scene by the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service. The incident happened at the East Down club at Killyleigh.
Belfast Coastguard was alerted just before 2pm reporting that some of the boats had capsized, while others were struggling to cope in the strong winds and squally showers off Killyleagh. The Bangor and Portaferry Coastguard Rescue Teams, the Portaferry and Newcastle RNLI lifeboats, the Irish Coast Guard helicopter from Dublin along with the helicopter from RAF Valley were mobilised to the scene.
The Ulster Hospital prepared for its Major Incident Response plan to be put into action and the South Eastern Trust declared a Major Emergency; however it was later stood down.
John McPoland of the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service said two people were admitted to hospital with minor injuries and a number of others received treatment for mild hypothermia. Among those injured were two teenage boys and a woman, believed to be in her 30s, who was treated for an arm injury.
Watch Manager at Belfast coast guard Liam Colquhoun said: “We have now been told by our rescue units on scene that everyone has safely returned to shore and that no one is missing. We believe 20 people ended up in the water after their boats capsized this afternoon. Ten of them requiring medical attention. The weather conditions on scene have been pretty treacherous, with winds gusting up to 60 mp/h”
Rob Stevenson of HM Coast Guard Service said “Two hundred people had gone to water and it was reported that up to one hundred people had been in difficulty in the water. Luckily, the way these sailors are dressed, they know what to do in an emergency”.
All the people who were in the water were rescued and accounted for by 3.30pm while the Rescue helicopters remained in the air carrying out final searches.