THREE canoeists who got into trouble on Lough Neagh during stormy weather are lucky to be alive, according to Lough Neagh Rescue.
The trio were pulled from the water after their canoe capsized in extremely rough conditions between Rams Island and Sandy Bay on Tuesday last week (January 7).
A fourth man who was kayaking with the trio raised the alarm around lunchtime to crew on a nearby sand barge.
However the trio suffered serious hypothermia with one suffering so severely he became unconscious.
Lough Neagh Rescue’s Kinnego and Ardboe lifeboats were tasked at 1pm and brought the three men, aged in their 20s, to Sandy Bay where two ambulances and a rapid response vehicle was waiting to rush them to the Royal Victoria Hospital.
James Greene, Station Officer at Lough Neagh Rescue’s Kinnego Lifeboat described the weather conditions on Lough Neagh that day as ‘extremely bad’.
He explained that four people, one in a single Kayak and three in an open top Canadian canoe had set out from Sandy Bay for Ram’s Island wearing ordinary clothes rather than waterproof clothes and life jackets.
Mr Greene sai; “Due to the stormy conditions the open top canoe quickly filled with water”. The single kayaker saw the trio were in difficulties about half way between Sandy Bay and Ram’s Island and managed to get the attention of crew in a nearby sand barge. However the barge was too high in the water to rescue the three men. They made a call to the Coastguard and threw the trio an inflatable life raft.
Lough Neagh Rescue was tasked from Kinnego and Ardboe and immediately spotted that the men were suffering from hypotheria and requested ambulances.
Mr Greene said one of the men was suffering so severely from hypothermia that he became unconscious. “It was very serious,” he said.
He urged anyone thinking of canoeing on the lough to check weather conditions and to go properly equipped.
He paid tribute to the crew who all have full time jobs and who managed to get to the lifeboat in minutes to rescue the canoeists.