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Rescues on Mayo beaches soared in 2020


Anton McNulty

THE county’s lifeguards saw a busier than normal summer this year, with number of rescues on Mayo beaches soaring by 66 percent over the 2020 bathing season.
Travel restrictions in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic saw the number of domestic tourists in Mayo increase, with many tourists visiting the county’s eleven Blue Flag beaches.
The end-of-year beach-lifeguard statistics for the bathing season – which runs from June 1 to September 15 – showed that the total number of rescues increased from nine in 2019 to 15. Eleven of those rescues involved rescue crafts.
Carrowniskey beach near Louisburgh, a popular surfing location, was the busiest from a lifesaving point of view, with nine rescues at the location. Four rescues took place at Keel beach on Achill Island, while Carrowmore beach and Keem beach saw one each.
There were 23 full-time lifeguards employed by Mayo County Council during the summer, with eight reserves on standby. They prevented 22 accidents in 2020, a 57 percent increase on 2019, when 14 accidents were prevented. Ross beach and Keel beach were the busiest in this regard, with six accidents prevented at each location.
There was a slight increase in the number of first aid administered, with 138 incidents recorded in 2020 compared to 132 in 2019. In terms of first aid, Keel beach was the busiest, with 43 incidents recorded – an increase of 19 on the previous year. Lifeguards also gave advice to the public on 6,731 occasions in 2020, up from 5,528 on 2019.
Patricia Flynn, the Water Safety Development Officer told The Mayo News that the local authority is glad to be able to provide a lifeguard service despite the difficulties associated with Covid-19.
She explained that the lifeguards were provided extra PPE during the summer, including extra huts to ensure social distancing, and she was glad to report there was no incidents of Covid on the beaches.
Ms Flynn added that Covid also meant that fitness tests had to take place outdoors, and that this is something that may be retained next year.
“They [lifeguards] couldn’t be employed if they didn’t pass the fitness test, which is generally carried out in Castlebar swimming pool with Water Safety Ireland examiners. On the advice of Water Safety Ireland, we had to hold the fitness tests in the open water, and they were held in Lecanvey pier.
“I think the fact we carried out the fitness test in the open water was a more natural environment, which is something we would think about promoting into the future as well. The evening we performed the fitness test it was quite choppy, but these are the conditions lifeguards have to work in from time to time,” she said.