A small coastal community in Co Waterford is shrouded in tragedy this morning following the deaths of three brothers who drowned when their fishing boat capsized.
The bodies of Shane, 44, Kenny, 47, and Paul, 49, Bolger were recovered from the water about half a mile off Brownstown Head near Tramore yesterday evening after a local fisherman in Passage East raised the alarm when the men failed to return from an early morning excursion.
The tragedy has left three children fatherless, including 4-year-old Martha-Kay and 15-year-old Calum Bolger, the children of Shane, as well as Rachel, 12, Paul’s daughter. Kenny was single and lived in Passage with his mother Margaret Bolger. The men are survived by two brothers, Anthony and Michael, and two sisters, Lynda and Paula.
Paul, whose twin sister Paula lives in Amsterdam, was due to celebrate his 50th birthday on Jul 17 and it is understood Paula intended to travel home for the occasion. Shane was living in the Crooke area of Passage and Paul in nearby Cheekpoint.
Last night, Paula wrote on Facebook “What a tragedy in my family today, my three brothers lost doing what they loved their whole lives, fishing for a living. I am devastated.”
There were numerous Facebook tributes posted to the brothers from Ireland, the US, Germany, and Turkey.
The tragedy was compounded by the fact they were experienced fishermen. A relative said they were well known across the whole area and “considered really nice decent lads”. The men’s fishing boat, the Dean Leanne, remained anchored, and is due to be recovered today.
Parish priest Fr Brian Power last night extended his sympathy to the Bolger family on behalf of the parishes of Killea, Crooke and Faithlegg. “I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to the families of the men that drowned — Paul, Shane and Kenny — and also to their mother Margaret. The community is in deep shock at the enormity of this tragedy and we wish to assure the families of our prayers and our full support at this very sad time.”
The scale of the tragedy began to unfold after 5pm when the Irish Coast Guard Centre was alerted after the men had not returned from an early morning fishing trip out in Tramore Bay where it is understood they were securing lobster pots. After the emergency call was made to the coastguard, the Tramore Lifeboat and Dunmore East Lifeboat as well as the Coast Guard Search and Rescue helicopter went to the scene, but the men were dead by the time they were recovered from the water. They were wearing lifejackets at the time.
Autopsies are due to be carried out at Waterford Regional Hospital this morning. It is believed they died from hypothermia.
Waterford county councillor Pat Fitzgerald, who is from Dunmore East and whose wife is related to the Bolger family, was at the harbour in Dunmore East as the bodies were being taken ashore. The Sinn Féin councillor said the community was angered and saddened. “We have had more than our fair share of these deaths down here and these people are being found in situations where they are forced to go to sea with equipment that is only suitable for the [Waterford] Estuary.
“These men would have been trawler men and when their jobs disappeared they were forced back into small boats again. It is almost impossible for them to make a living; it’s a shocking state of affairs.”
Gardaí in Tramore are investigating the cause of the tragedy and an inquiry will also be mounted by the Marine Casualty Investigation Board.
* Contact the garda station at 051391603.
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