Foyle Search and Rescue saved twenty-seven people from Derry’s River Foyle in 2019 and dealt with around 400 incidents.
The volunteer-run organisation is however thankful that less bodies had to be recovered than in recent years and that incidents have decreased overall.
In the past year, as well as the twenty-seven rescued from the water, 164 people were taken from the railings to safety and three bodies were recovered from the River Foyle.
The total number of incidents dealt with throughout the year is 394 which is down on a figure of around 500 last year. Bodies recovered also decreased from nine in 2018.
Nowadays FSR plays an important role in referring people at risk on to the Community Crisis Intervention Service (CCIS) which has been running since the beginning of this year.
The Derry News recently reported that permanent funding is being sought to secure the future of CCIS which has been granted a reprieve until March.
In its pilot year the de-escalation service assisted over 100 people in varying degrees of crisis, including those at risk of suicide or self-harm.
FSR volunteer, Carole McAleer, said both organisations have a “brilliant” relationship and CCIS allows people to get “immediate help” rather than having to spend time on a waiting list in a time of crisis.
“It should be extended and should get the funding because it is a vital service that is really needed in the town, especially recently with everything going on too.
“People campaigned to get the service and it is important that now when we have it that we keep it for as long as possible because it is working.”
Over more than twenty-five years FSR has found every person who entered the river and returned them to their families - it can take days and sometimes weeks to do so.
At the time of writing this week the team continues to search for a person who has been missing for over five weeks, while also dealing with emerging incidents.
Thoughts and prayers
Stephen Twells, FSR Chairman, extended the thoughts and prayers of all its volunteers and staff to those who lost a loved one in 2019, or found themselves in despair.
“2019 has been a busy year for FSR and I am very proud of each and every one of our volunteers and staff for their commitment and determination during the last 12 months in helping those in need. The Charity as always pulled together, providing the best service we could to make a difference.
“However, none of this could have been achieved without the support from many, such as PSNI, NIFRS, NIAS, Coast Guard, PHA, CCI, DCSDC, WHSST, NISAR.”
He added: “Our Duty Teams were provided with hot meals & Beverages from Dominos, Nandos, Four Star, Ricks, etc: but most importantly the overwhelming and unwavering generosity, plus emotional support from many individuals, working groups, community organisations and in particular families and friends who worked with us.
“So as we say farewell to 2019 and welcome in 2020, we continue to provide a suicide prevention and water rescue service to our city and beyond. I would like to wish all our colleagues in the statutory and voluntary emergency rescue services as well as all of our supporters everywhere a Happy and Peaceful New Year.”
FSR predominantly operates in Derry but also assists with search and rescue operations UK and Ireland wide when required.
It was set up by local people in 1993 in response to the alarmingly high number of drownings in the river – 30 people within 18 months - and has adopted the role of preventing suicide and supporting families in the City.
Its aim is to reduce the number of people who die through drowning in the River Foyle – one of the coldest and fastest flowing rivers in Europe.
Volunteers are from the local community and selflessly give up hours of their personal time every week to help those in need.
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