Londonderry YMCA has praised the emergency services following Saturday’s rescue mission when a fundraising boat race on the River Foyle got into difficulty on choppy water between Magheramason and Carrigans.
Six people, who were suffering from hypothermia, were airlifted to Altnagelvin Hospital while the rest taken to Foyle Rescue Incident centre by either boat or helicopter.
YMCA general secretary Willie Lamrock said: “It was really reassuring to see the professionalism swing into action. YMCA are indeed grateful to all who responded to the call. We would also like to thank Ian Falconer who raised the alarm so early in the incident.”
He said proceeds from the fundraiser will be donated to Foyle Rescue in appreciation of their work.
YMCA chairman Adrian Johnston, who was on the canoe which sank, said it was “very scary”.
“Every one, after the shock, worked together to the alarm raised and make sure we stayed connected to the overturned canoe,” he said.
The vice-chairman, Kris Dunn said his team knew there was something wrong when they lost sight of their competitors.
“The two instructors were talking on the radio and they done a great job. We towed the sunken canoe to the shore and got all ready for the short journey to Prehen,” he said.
The fundraising race was planned as part of the YMCA’s celebration for the YMCA movement, which was founded on June 6, 1844, hence the race being held on Saturday. In Londonderry the YMCA devised a boat race, involving two 13-man canoes in a challenge to travel from Lifford to Culmore point. The teams were comprised of YMCA adult supporters. One team was ‘single’ and the other ‘married’.
According to Mr Lamrock, the teams left Lifford at 11.30am after completing all their checks in nice weather, but encountered some squally showers on their way to the first stop at the Gribben at Bready, where they were to break for lunch at 1pm. The weather was improving and at 1.30pm they took to the water again to travel to Culmore.
“The ‘married’ canoe pushed themselves into a lead of about 300 metres at the river bend at Magheramason. They lost sight of the ‘single’ canoe and pull into the shore area at Carrigans and then noticed the other canoe members waving their paddles and they also got radio contact to advise that the canoe was upturned and everyone was in the water”, he said.
“The ‘single’ canoe then floated down to the waiting ‘married’ canoe, who took six members on their canoe and then towed the overturned canoe, with the others holding on, to the shore. All concerned walked ashore.
“By that stage the rescue services were arriving at the scene. This included the PSNI and Irish Coastal helicopters, NI Fire and Rescue Service and Foyle Rescue Service high speed boats and Foyle Rescue jetski operators.”
At Foyle Rescue Incident assessments were carried out there by ambulance staff with support given by Foyle Rescue staff, PSNI officers and NI Fire and Rescue staff.
“As a precautionary measure a further 12 were taken to Altnagelvin Hospital for more tests. All were released from hospital within a couple of hours,” he said.
“The YMCA would like to thank all those who took part in the rescue effort and those at Altnagelvin Hospital,” he said.
In a statement, Foyle Search and Rescue confirmed that two kayaks capsized on the river between Carrigans in Co Donegal and Magheramason in Co Tyrone at around 2pm on Saturday.
All of those rescued were aged between 18 and their mid-50s and all of them were part of the one group, the river rescue group said.
A spokeswoman from the Western Health and Social Care Trust said 26 people were treated after the incident.
“Nine people were triaged at the scene and required no medical attention,” she said.
“The rest of the group were taken to Altnagelvin Hospital where they were treated for hypothermia.
“They were all discharged on Saturday evening.”