'It's a terribly bleak day': Search continues for missing fisherman in West Cork

Additional reporting by Eoin English

A low water search is to continue tomorrow for a young fisherman missing off the West Cork coast.

The man, named locally as Kodie Healy, who is in his 20s, is now feared drowned. The popular young man played football locally and comes from a well-known and well-liked local fishing family.

Missing west Cork firsherman, Kodie Healy
Missing west Cork firsherman, Kodie Healy

Mr Healy left the shore at 7.30am on Wednesday on his 21ft boat to tend lobster pots. There was a 2m swell and force 5-6 winds gusting.

He was due to return at 6pm, but when he failed to come in by 8.30pm, concerned fishermen raised the alarm.

Wreckage from the boat was discovered later that night in Dunmanus Bay during an extensive search.

Locals fear that he was swamped by a wave and smashed on shore.

Schull and Goleen coastguards searched the rugged and jagged coastline hoping to find the missing man on shore but found nothing.

It is feared that he was not wearing a lifejacket or an emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) which activates on contact with water to alert emergency services to the wearer's whereabouts.

Valentia Coast Guard has been co-ordinating the ongoing search by land, sea and air between coastguard helicopters, the RNLI, the navy, the coastguard and concerned locals.

Ten fishing trawlers also joined the search, initially focusing on the area near Carbery Island in Dunmanus Bay where the boat debris was located, but moving south when nothing else was found.

Fishermen stand on the bow of a fishing trawler as it searches the waters of Dunmanus Bay for missing fisherman Kodie Healy. Picture: Andy Gibson.
Fishermen stand on the bow of a fishing trawler as it searches the waters of Dunmanus Bay for missing fisherman Kodie Healy. Picture: Andy Gibson.

Mr Healy is not the first lone lobster fisherman who has gone missing at sea in the area. Pat O'Callaghan disappeared after leaving nearby Schull in his one-man boat at 8am on April, 20, 2004.

His body washed up three weeks later at Crookhaven.

He had a certificate of competency, his boat was fully licenced and in good condition.

But the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) found that Mr O’Callaghan was not wearing a lifejacket when he entered the water.

His brother Maurice knows the pain that Mr Healy's family must be feeling.

“They're a very nice family and they're going through hell now," he said.

“The feeling of loneliness and thinking of him out there. We know what they're going through and we really feel for them.

“When you hear the helicopter around it brings it all back. It's very important to find him and bring him back. It's hard to accept it otherwise. It's a very, very sad time," he said.

Kodie Healy
Kodie Healy

West Cork TD Micheal Collins said: “It's a very difficult time for our peninsula.

“He's in his 20s and well-known. A lot of young people are very upset and it's a very, very difficult time for his family.

“People are out searching in very difficult conditions. Fishing is the hardest job you can do, whether you're in a small punt or a large trawler.

“Weather dictates your life, you're out there in all conditions, the weather sometimes spins and changes and your life is suddenly in your hands.

“And fishermen have little to no respect these days. They're fighting for survival after successive governments gave away our waters.

“Fishermen have been hemmed-in. The season is short so they must make as much as they can while they can.

“It's a bleak picture and it's a terribly bleak day."

MCIB has investigated 32 fishing deaths in Ireland between 2010 and 2017.

After Mr O'Callaghan's death, it recommended that a lifejacket should be worn at all times while fishing and that the "hazardous" single-handed operation of fishing boats should be avoided if at all possible.

Rescue 117 and the Coastguard are helping to search the waters of Dunmanus Bay for missing fisherman Kodie Healy. Picture: Andy Gibson
Rescue 117 and the Coastguard are helping to search the waters of Dunmanus Bay for missing fisherman Kodie Healy. Picture: Andy Gibson

John Leech of Irish Water Safety warned of the dangers of lobster fishing alone.

"Lobster potting alone is a hazardous and high-risk means of fishing. If the vessel has an outboard engine then the fisherman must wear a "kill switch" so that if there is a difficulty the vessel will stop.

"Some of the hazards are the pots getting fouled in the sea bed or in the vessel itself when they are being shot and hauled. Some vessels have been retrofitted with new equipment with the change in the type of fishing which can effect the stability of the vessel and cause it to capsize more readily," Mr Leech said.

"They tend to be open vessels and are therefore more prone to a fast capsize, when the potting line gets fouled /caught in the sea bed," he added.

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