Marinewatch, Wexford's life savers

By David tucker

Published 15/12/2015 | 00:00

Marinewatch volunteers at Wexford on Ice.
Marinewatch volunteers at Wexford on Ice.
Volunteers Amy Rea, left, and Sarah Flood.

Founded three years ago this week, Wexford Marinewatch continues to maintain its record of zero deaths by suicide in Wexford Harbour since its establishment. During that time it has saved 56 people from entering the water who otherwise may not be here today.

Members of the voluntary group, which provides suicide intervention and safety patrols on Wexford Bridge and Quays several nights a week, say they are delighted that their hard work and efforts have paid off and that they have been able to help so many people.

Founded by local man Frank Flanagan, the organisation was set up to deal directly with the alarming increase of suicide and people entering the water in the town.

'Prior to setting up, statistics showed us there was average of 16 persons a year entering the water in Wexford,' said Mr Flanagan.

'Some were accidental, while many were a cry for help. Sadly some of these cries for help went unnoticed and ended up in tragedy. This tragedy destroys friends, families, neighbours and the community each time it happens and people are left trying to pick up the pieces with so many questions unanswered.

'We felt we had to take a hands-on, pro-active approach and deal with this head on,' he said.

The outcome of this was Marinewatch, which has now become a model for similar agencies elsewhere in Ireland.

One representative of each of the emergency services sits on the board of marinewatch and is also key to its success.

Over the course of three years, the organisation has intervened in 168 incidents and prevented 56 people from entering the water.

'These 56 people may not be here today if it had not been for the intervention of our volunteers,' said Mr. Flanagan.

'We deal with a wide variety of incidents and no two patrols are ever the same. We regularly have ringbuoys vandalised, people requiring First Aid, people suffering severe effects of alcohol and putting themselves in danger - this makes up the remainder of the 168 incidents.'

'When someone puts themselves in danger, our job in Marinewatch is to get them to safety as quickly as possible and get them the help they need. Regularly we rely on our colleagues from the RNLI and the Gardai to provide backup assistance when someone is intent on entering the water.

'There are numerous advantages in what we do, not only for the people we save, but also for the rescue services. Their work is voluntary too - so by preventing someone from entering the water, we are not just saving a life but we are avoiding days, weeks or possibly months of searching for a missing person.'

The organisation now has 100 volunteers and is still recruiting more. The professionalism of the organisation has not gone unnoticed across the whole country, and they have been commended by many other lifesaving groups and Emergency Services, such as the RNLI whom they work closely alongside.

Divisional Operations Manager for RNLI Ireland, Owen Medland said: 'Wexford Marinewatch is a superb example of Community Lifesaving in action. Working closely with the RNLI and all local agencies, the partnerships built by the team in Wexford are clearly making a positive impact on reducing incidents. We would like to wish Wexford Marinewatch a happy third birthday and look forward to continuing the close partnership between Wexford RNLI Volunteers and Marinewatch Volunteers. Extra patrols are planned by Marinewatch over the festive season, as many people are out to celebrate the season and enjoy their Christmas parties - and Volunteers will be on duty to try and ensure no one comes to any harm.'

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, you can apply online at www.wexfordmarinewatch.com/volunteering Anyone contemplating suicide or experiencing difficulty over the Christmas period, can contact the Console 24hr Helpline on 1800 247 247 or the Samaritans on 116123.

Wexford People

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