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MCIB Says Corrib Rowing Training Which Went Wrong Posed "Threat of Death Or Serious Injury"

18th April 2024
The remnants of the two rowing boats involved in the Corrib rowing training that went wrong
The remnants of the two rowing boats involved in the Corrib rowing training which went wrong Credit: MCIB

The Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) has said that a training session which went wrong on the river Corrib and resulted in the loss of two competitive rowing craft “posed a threat of death or serious injury” to those involved.

Fortunately, no lives were lost in the incident which occurred on January 14th, 2023, but the crew in two University of Galway rowing boats which were swept towards the Salmon Weir were novices with minimal experience.

New safety recommendations have been issued to eight rowing clubs after the MCIB identified that patterns of risky behaviour had become “normalised” and posed a threat to safety.

The incident occurred as University of Galway boats were approaching the end of their trip and saw other boats from Coláiste Iognáid heading upriver towards them.

One Coláiste Iognáid rowing boat with nine school teenagers was accompanied by a coach’s launch with two adults on board.

All craft steered towards the centre of the river to avoid a collision but this was in breach of “rules of the river”.

The vessels were now all in the river’s main current, with near-gale force westerly winds, and the two boats from the University of Galway Boat Club were swept towards the Salmon Weir where they capsized against safety booms.

The Coláiste Iognáid Rowing Club rowing craft subsequently capsized in reeds along the east bank, and all were rescued.

The MCIB criticised the university boat club for inadequate planning of a trip which took place in unsuitable weather and river conditions.

“A small craft warning and a gale warning were in effect from five hours before this rowing trip commenced, as winds of up to Force 8 were forecasted to occur along the western seaboard,” the report says.

It says the river conditions were also unsuitable for this rowing trip, as the river was in its normal winter spate conditions, with a high flow rate and a low water temperature.

“ These conditions existed for weeks before and after this casualty event. These conditions occurred in the vicinity of a significant weir, which the crews had to row past on both the outward and return legs,”it says.

“The high flow rate meant that the crews were unable to effectively control their boats, to change course away from the approaching weir. The low water temperature meant that the crews were exposed to the dangers of cold water immersion when their vessels capsized and they entered the water,”it says.

The MCIB notes that five incidents had occurred over the preceding two decades involving recreational boats at or above the weir.

The lack of a rescue vessel above the weir is also highlighted – the RNLI, Garda and Galway Fire and Rescue Service are located below the weir.

The full report is here

Published in MCIB, Rowing
Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Search and Rescue: True stories of Irish Air-Sea Rescues and the Loss of R116 (2022); Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004); and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010). She is also co-producer with Sarah Blake of the Doc on One "Miracle in Galway Bay" which recently won a Celtic Media Award

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