All of Ireland is mourning for hero Caitriona Lucas, a 41-year-old mother of two who is the first volunteer member of the Irish Coast Guard to lose her life on duty.

She was with two others on a search in a swollen sea off Co. Clare for a man missing since Friday when their rigid inflatable boat, a Delta RIB, flipped over on Monday.  The tragedy happened near the cliffs off Kilkee when all three were thrown into the water.

In what has been described as an awful reversal of roles, three people who regularly put their own lives in peril to save others found themselves the focus of a dramatic air and sea search.

Lucas, from nearby Ballyvaughan, tragically lost her life. She was in the water for an hour and rescuers found her unresponsive when she was taken out by a helicopter based at Shannon and flown to University Hospital, Limerick. She was declared dead a short time later.

Together with Jenny Carway, 51, and James Lucey, 49, she had set out on Monday on the search for missing teacher David McMahon.

Lucey swam to a cave but he was trapped there for several hours when members of Doolin Coast Guard abseiled down and remained with him until he was winched onto a rescue helicopter and flown to hospital. He was said to have been uninjured but exhausted and badly shaken.

Carway was taken out of the water a half hour before Lucas was found. She was treated by paramedics before she was taken to hospital where she is recovering.

Irish Coast Guard spokesman Declan Geoghegan said, “We don’t know if it was a heavy swell or a rogue wave or what happened but we got a mayday call when a coastguard boat got into difficulty.”

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the death of Lucas “casts a dark shadow over people all over the island.”

Transport Minister Shane Ross described her as “a member of that extraordinary group of men and women who dedicate their skills, time and passion so that others may be safe on our coastlines.”

Heroic coastguard Caitríona Lucas.Doolin Coastguard / Facebook