Larne '˜evacuation' plan recalled by coastguard

A near escape for Larne was among the emergencies reflected on as two members of Portmuck Coastguard were presented with long service medals by the Head of Coastguard Coastal Operations.

Monday, 8th October 2018, 11:47 am
Updated Monday, 8th October 2018, 11:49 am
Peter Mizen, Head of the Coastguard Coastal Operations, presents long service medals to Clifford Kerr and KennyMcDowell, who have both served 40-plus years with Portmuck Coastguard. at a reception held in Larne Golf Club. INLT 39-202-AM

The presentation by Peter Mizen in Larne Golf Club, Islandmagee, was to Clifford Kerr and Kenny McDowell, both of whom joined Portmuck Coastguard over 40 years ago.

Clifford has been station officer for more than 25 years. The two men are members of Portmuck Coastguard Search and Rescue Team.

Billy Esler who retired last year from Larne Coastguard was also presented with a certificate in recognition of his 26-year service. Billy held the position of station officer in his team.

Clifford Kerr, Station Officer at Portmuck Coastguard Search and Rescue Team, receives his long service medal from Pete Mizen, Head of HM Coastguard Coastal Operations. Clifford has served 40-plus years with HM Coastguard. INLT 39-201-AM

All have been dedicated members over the years turning out at all hours of the day and night for search and rescue jobs.

Clifford said: “The Coastguard is responsible for search and rescue around coastal waters co-ordinating lifeboats, beach and cliff rescues.”

He added that the public is the “eyes and ears” of the Coastguard.

“We rely on the public to ring 999,” he stated.

Kenny McDowell receives a long service medal from Peter Mizen, Head of HM Coastguard Coastal Operations, in recognition of his 40-plus years service with the Portmuck team. INLT 39-200-AM

“The Coastguard co-ordinates the RNLI. We work very closely with the RNLI for search and rescue .”

Honoured to receive his long service medal, which was struck by the Royal Mint, Clifford said: “There are not that many issued. It is quite a milestone for Kenny and myself.”

One of the most memorable alerts, he recalled, was when a gas tanker broke anchor and came ashore near Chaine Park in 1980.

He recalled that rescuers were considering evacuating the whole of Larne town as a precaution amid fears of a massive explosion.

Billy Esler, who retired from Larne Coastguard Team, receives a certificate in recognition of his servive from Peter Mizen, Head of Coastguard Coastal Operations. INLT 39-203-AM

However, after four or five days, the emergency ended after the tanker was emptied and refloated.

“Kenny and I joined the Coastguard in 1977. He has been an exceptional team member and friend. He has been a keen member throughout his 40 years.”

Portmuck Coastguard, which has eight team members answers between 25 and 30 calls each year on average.

Recruitment is currently underway.

For further details, visit the Coastguard website.