'Without the helicopter, I wouldn't be here today'

RESCUED ALAN HORRIFIED AT TALK OF REDUCING LIFE-SAVING SERVICE

Anne Marie O'CONNOR

A ROSSLARE man, saved from icy waters by the south east helicopter search and rescue, says he owes his life to the service which the Government now wants to slash.

Alan Duggan, from Rosslare Strand, was plucked from freezing sea waters by helicopter winchman Neville Murphy in a dramatic air rescue in 2005.

'If that helicopter was not on 24-hour call in 2005, I would not be alive today,' he said.

Mr. Duggan, a father-of-two, is incredulous that the Government now want to curtail the south east helicopter service, preventing crews from flying after dark. ROSSLARE STRAND man, Alan Duggan owes his life to the Coastguard search and rescue helicopter which plucked him out of freezing waters in 2005.

'If that helicopter was not on 24 hour call in 2005, I would not be alive today,' said the father-of-two who is horrified at talks of reducing the south east helicopter search and rescue (SAR) service.

Alan was saved by the helicopter crews on October 27, 2005 - a date which is firmly etched on his mind.

'I will never forget that date. My youngest son was a year old at the time and I thought that I'd never see him again,' he said.

Alan found himself in distress in freezing cold waters off the coast of Rosslare when his dinghy capsized.

'A 21ft fishing boat I owned broke away in a storm and I went after it in a dinghy. I was about half a mile off Rosslare port when the dinghy capsized. I was right in the channel. Without the helicopter I wouldn't be here now,' he said.

An SOS call from a friend on shore, who saw Alan's boat turn over, launched rescue services from Wexford and Rosslare lifeboats and the Waterford based helicopter.

'I was absolutely terrified that night,' he said, adding that he feared he'd never see his wife Liezel or children Keith and Patrick again.

'I was an hour and 45 minutes in the water. I was freezing from the waist up, from the waist down I'd already gone completely numb,' he said.

When winchman, Neville Murphy from the helicopter crew, plucked him from the icy seas Alan realised his narrow escape from death.

'Another hour in that water, and I'd have been dead. The search and rescue helicopter saved my life. '

Alan is 'absolutely horrified' that the Government are considering halving the flying hours of the Waterford based SAR helicopter, leaving it operationaly only in daylight hours.

'It's absolutely scandalous. They can make real cutbacks without taking away a vital service,' he said.

Alan, who also volunteers with the Rosslare Coastguard, said the busy channel off the Wexford coast needs a 24 hour service.

'Late last year we had a lady who went off the Stena. Her body was found seven miles away by the helicopter crew at ten past 12 at night. Tragedies don't happen only in daylight hours,' he said.

'The lads in the helicopters need the coastguard crews on the ground. We are their eyes on the ground. But we need them up in the air,' he added.

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