Night and heat vision to prevent repeat of Glasgow loch death tragedy
A VOLUNTEER watch team on a loch where four Glasgow fishermen drowned has been kitted out with equipment that could have saved their lives.
William Carty, 47, his brother Stephen Carty, 42, along with Thomas Douglas, 36, and Craig Currie, 30, drowned when their boat capsized in thick fog in Loch Awe, Argyll, in March, 2009.
The alarm was raised by a fifth member of their fishing party when the four men did not return to their camp near Kilchurn Castle, after a night at the local Tight Line pub.
Rescuers were forced to stand helplessly by the lochside for hours as there was no local rescue boat and no equipment to confirm if the men were in the water or not.
Now LochWatch Loch Awe – a volunteer group formed in response to the tragedy – has obtained night and poor vision equipment as well as a body-heat sourcing device, which would have indicated the men’s position in the water.
It is believed this is the first time the equipment will be used for searches of Scottish inland waters.
Iain MacKinnon, 52, co-founder of the watch group, who attended the Loch Awe tragedy as station officer of Oban coastguard team, believes if they had the equipment in 2009 it could have led to a successful rescue.
Mr MacKinnon said: “When the four lads drowned in 2009 it was very thick fog and no-one could see what was happening.
“Because we were starved of information at the lochside we couldn’t make decisions. If we had had this equipment those decisions could have been made to attempt a rescue.
Whether that was sending someone out in a dry suit, or sending someone out in a dinghy. We would have been able to penetrate the loch, to see what was happening.
“It’s all about timing, in the cold water we need to get to people as quickly as possible.
“We are currently training the emergency services to use the equipment as well, we started with the police officers who might attend an incident in Loch Awe and we have also trained some of the Oban Coastguard.”
The two devices purchased for Loch Awe cost more than £6,000 but Gael Force Marine, of Inverness, which also supplies LochWatch with reduced-price life jackets, let the volunteers have it for £4,300.
It was bought thanks to a £3,500 grant from the local An Suidhe windfarm and £1,000 out of funds raised by supporters of the LochWatch scheme, which includes donations from the family of the men who died.
Family members have donated £8,500 to LochWatch, which now has a small patrol boat on the loch and is fund-raising to buy a more substantial all-weather boat to attend rescues.
LochWatch has just signed up its 99th volunteer and the group’s training was put into practice when a boat was reported to be in trouble in the Inverinan area of the loch on Sunday.
Mr MacKinnon said: “It turned out to be a false alarm but it was a good test for the system. Pretty much everyone who lives on Loch Awe is now a member of LochWatch, as well as a lot of the fishermen who come up here regularly.”
There have been several tragedies in Loch Awe over the years. Mr MacKinnon said: “I have been in the coastguard for over 20 years and there must have been more than 15 or 16 people who have lost their lives on Loch Awe in that time.
“Loch Awe is a deep, dark loch, very, very cold at any time. When you are in the water you are looking at minutes rather than hours survival time.”
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Friday 24 May 2013
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