Some claim reaction ‘out of proportion’ as normality resumed

Emergency services at the Scene at Strangford Lough in Co Down
Emergency services at the Scene at Strangford Lough in Co Down

It was obvious something was amiss even before this reporter got to the scene yesterday.

On the approach to the village of Killyleagh, traffic began to build up behind a slow-moving vehicle.

At first, it was thought this would be a tractor.

But on closer look, it became clear it was a 4X4 pulling a rigid inflatable boat towards the village centre.

Some of those by the waterside said that they knew little about the rescue operation on the lough, although 48-year-old Claire Grebbell did recall that, at around 1pm, the weather suddenly went from calm and bright to “horrific”.

Closer to the scene of the yacht club to the north of the village, a helicopter buzzed overhead.

A crowd had gathered at the entrance to a lane leading to the club, which police were blocking off.

Among them was Strangford UUP MLA Mike Nesbitt, who said that reports indicated everyone was largely okay – although this did not stop nervous parents at the roadside from fretting.

On getting in, a teenager approached this reporter.

Although his actual words are not printable, what he said was effectively: “Are you a reporter? There’s nothing happening. I don’t know why everyone is here.”

It was a theme heard by a string of people at the club, many of whom would not give an interview, although boat-builder Alistair Duffin – 67 and from Newtownards – said: “It’s been blown totally out of proportion. The whole thing was under control – all the boats were being looked after.”

As emergency services began to leave and many club members socialised at the bar, it was clear by late afternoon that normality had been well and truly restored.