Jim Shannon MP for Strangford has praised the response by the emergency services to the incident on Strangford Lough where participants in a sailing event were hit by a freak wave.
The local MP said, “There is always an inherent danger whenever anyone is engaged in activities such as sailing. The unpredictability of the sea and changeable weather conditions highlight the need for everyone to take care around the sea.
“Those participating in the event today at East Down Yacht Club will have been well prepared, but the quick response of the emergency services to the events which unfolded ensured that only relatively minor injuries were suffered by those capsized.
“With a response from a number of different Coastguard teams and several helicopters in the air this was a significant operation. Thankfully the preparations put in place by the Ulster Hospital were not necessary and I would like to wish a speedy recovery to the six people who have been taken to hospital.”
The NI Ambulance Service agreed that the prompt reaction of the emergency services ensured the potentially dangerous situation ended without death or serious injury.
Spokesman John McPoland said the full-scale operation was necessary given the circumstances.
“Initially we got reports of 100 people in the water. We sent seven officers, four A&E vehicles and three patient care service mini-bus type vehicles,” he said.
“In a major incident, potentially involving 100 casualties, we would set up a casualty clearing and treatment area.
“The operation went very, very well. All of the emergency services - from the coastguard in the initial stages who ran the whole operation through to the fire service, ourselves, the police and the local yacht club.
“The RNLI also launched their lifeboats and people were taken out of the water very quickly and thankfully nobody sustained any serious injuries.
“The reports were that people being taken out of the water hadn’t sustained any serious injuries, so at the scene we took two people to hospital - one with a queried fractured wrist and one with a knee injury.
“We treated a number of other people for mild hypothermia and all of those people were discharged at the scene. They are getting showered and cups of soup and they will be ready to go.”
Mr McPoland added: “We still have crews at the scene many hours afterwards so we have no apologies to make for responding in the way we did - and as soon as we got the opportunity we scaled the incident down.
“The response of all the emergency services made sure that everybody was accounted for in the initial stages and treated appropriately. “