‘Exhausted’ divers rescued after major search near The Gobbins

Lifeboats in action.
Lifeboats in action.

Larne RNLI rescued three divers in a massive search operation near Blackhead Lighthouse last night.

The alarm was raised at 5.30pm by the coxswain of an RHIB (rigid hull inflatable dive boat), who reported that three divers were 40 minutes overdue from their dive near Blackhead Lighthouse.

Volunteer lifeboat crew at Larne RNLI then responded to a launch request from the UK Coastguard to help search for the divers.

Larne All-weather lifeboat launched followed by Larne inshore lifeboat and the crews were quickly on scene in the Blackhead area to commence the search.

The major multiagency search was coordinated by the coastguard and included Bangor RNLI, the Irish Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 116, four shipping vessels, two boats from Whitehead Yacht club and Larne, Portmuck and Bangor coastguard teams.

Search conditions were described as “challenging” as, despite the calm seas, thick banks of rolling fog caused poor visibility.

Larne RNLI inshore lifeboat located the three divers at 6.50pm on a cliff face north of The Gobbins, three miles from the original rescue location.

The divers were recovered into the lifeboat and did not require medical assistance however they were fatigued, hungry and thirsty.

Larne All-weather lifeboat then took the divers onboard and transferred them safely back to Belfast Coastal Operations Centre in Bangor.

Larne RNLI Operations Manager Allan Dorman commented: “Conditions were very challenging with visibility down to about fifteen metres.

“The divers did the right thing and stayed together.

“We were fearful as time passed and our lifeboat crews were still searching the area with no sightings but thankfully the tide took them north and to nearby rocks.

“They were exhausted when they were finally located and recovered onto the inshore lifeboat.

“We are extremely thankful that the callout ended well with everyone accounted for and safely recovered. Our thanks to everyone involved in the search.”

Senior Maritime Operations Officer for the UK Coastguard Ryan Gray said: “The coxswain of the RHIB dive boat did exactly the right thing calling the UK Coastguard when it became apparent that the divers were overdue.

“Although we had very heavy fog in the area which reduced visibility, these divers were extremely experienced and had an emergency plan in place when they found themselves in difficulty.

“It was a very challenging search operation given the weather conditions, however, the divers’ professionalism and the fact that they stayed calm and stuck together, meant that we were able to locate them quickly.

“They had all the right equipment to cope with this situation and we are extremely glad that they were found safe and well.

“We would like to extend a massive thank you to all those who reacted quickly to the Mayday broadcast that was issued. It was truly a coordinated effort and everyone did a fantastic job to bring these divers home safely.”