Latest: Navy divers to assist in search for missing fisherman

Latest: Navy divers to assist in search for missing fisherman

Update 12.30pm By Neil Michael: The Irish navy is sending divers to help search for the body of one of two fishermen who died off the Wexford coast at the weekend.

Gardaí, who are now co-ordinating the search and recovery operation, requested the Naval Services Diving Section earlier today.

It could be, however, some time before they actually start diving to where the wreck is believed to be due to weather conditions and the depths involved.

A Naval Services spokesperson said: “The Naval Service continue to provide assistance on the operation today with the LÉ Samuel Beckett on scene.

“A request for the Naval Diving Section has also been received from An Garda Síochána and they will provide assistance throughout as required.”

The NSDS have the capability to conduct subsurface search with divers, Autonomous Underwater Vesicle (AUV), Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicle (ROV) and Side Scan Sonar.

The Marine Casualty Investigation Board has launched a probe into why the vessel “vanished” late Saturday evening.

Alize, which was up for sale for more than €200,000 and in “pristine condition”, sank so quickly in 50 metres of water its two crew didn’t have time to raise the alarm.

Instead, it was the automatic activation of the vessel’s Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon that alerted emergency services around 10.30pm Saturday.

The Irish Coastguard’s Rescue 117 helicopter was immediately tasked, as were RNLI units.

RNLI searching the coast at Hook Head, Co Wexford. Picture: Patrick Browne
RNLI searching the coast at Hook Head, Co Wexford. Picture: Patrick Browne

One each came from Kilmore Quay in Co Wexford and Dunmore East in Co Waterford.

Not long after being dispatched, the R117 spotted and rescued Mr Suinnott in the water about four miles off the Duncannon coast.

He was airlifted to Waterford Airport and then rushed by ambulance to University Hospital Waterford.

Despite efforts by medics to save him, he was pronounced dead at the hospital.

The 65-year-old married father-of-four, from Seaview, Kilmore, was described by Rosslare Aontu councillor Jim Codd as a “lovely man”.

His funeral is to be held tomorrow at St Mary’s Church, Kilmore, Co Wexford.

His family has requested donations to the RNLI in lieu of flowers.

A search resumed this morning to recover the body of his 41-year-old skipper Willie Wheelan.

Among those searching for him are his two brothers Ciaran and Malcolm, who are also fishermen.

The UK-built 11.7-metre trawler had only recently undergone a major overhaul and had been up for sale for more than €200,000.

Caitlin Uí Aodh, Lost At Sea Tragedies trustee and widow of the drowned skipper of the Tit Bonhomme trawler, told the Irish Examiner on Monday: “The boat was of a very high standard.

“She was a fine little boat.

“It really would be very difficult to speculate on as to what happened.”

Fishing industry sources have speculated the trawler could have come in contact with a submarine or its nets became snagged in a wreckage on the sea floor.

Earlier: Search resumes for missing fisherman amid wind warning

Update 10.45am by Digital Desk: The search and recovery operation for Willie Whelan has resumed off the south-east coast this morning.

The fisherman went missing on Saturday night after the trawler he was on sank off Hook Head.

The navy vessel Samuel Beckett and Kilmore Quay RNLI are carrying out the search.

At the scene of the search yesterday where the fishing vessel sank. Pic: Patrick Browne
At the scene of the search yesterday where the fishing vessel sank. Pic: Patrick Browne

Earlier: Weather warning may delay search for missing fisherman

Update 7.33am by Vivienne Clarke: A decision will be made later this morning whether to go ahead with today's search for a missing fisherman off the south-east coast.

A yellow wind warning is in place along the eastern seaboard, with a gale-force eight alert also in place in the Irish Sea.

The search for Willie Whelan, 41, has been ongoing since the trawler he was on sank off Hook Head late on Saturday.

The Alize sank so quickly its two crew didn’t have time to raise the alarm.

Instead, it was the automatic activation of the vessel’s Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon that alerted emergency services around 10.30pm on Saturday.

Joe Sinnott, 65, was rescued from the water but he was later pronounced dead at University Hospital Waterford.

Members of the Dunmore East RNLI will meet at 9am on Tuesday to assess the weather to see if an operation to recover a missing fisherman can resume.

Spokesperson Neville Murphy told Newstalk Breakfast that the operation has now been categorised as a recovery and that the safety of crews is paramount.

Wexford fisherman Willie Whelan, has been missing since the trawler he was on sank on Saturday night off the south east coast, a yellow weather warning means that it might not be safe for RNLI crews to go to sea.

“We won’t send them out when it is unsafe,” explained Mr Murphy.

The weather conditions will be assessed at 9am to see if the Yellow weather warning is having an impact on the Waterford and Wexford coast.

Mr Murphy pointed out that RNLI crews operate all weather boats and crews are willing, but that in recovery situations the safety of crews was important.

Additional reporting by Digital Desk


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