The bodies of two fishermen were recovered from the sea in Co Clare yesterday after their boat mysteriously sank on Monday evening.
Lifelong fishermen and neighbours Michael Galvin, 64, and Noel Dickinson, who was in his late 20s, had been relocating their lobster pots ahead of a promised storm due last night.
Their 26-foot fishing boat, Lady Eileen, was last seen near Spanish Point at around 3pm. It was due back at its home port of Quilty at 5pm, but when there was still no sign of it at 7pm, the alarm was raised.
The Doolin unit of the Irish Coast Guard was contacted and members travelled to Hags Head near Liscannor where the men were seen earlier in the day. When there was no sign of the boat, a search was mounted at around 8.50pm.
The Shannon-based search and rescue helicopter began a search and was joined in sea and land searches by teams from Doolin and Kilkee.
While some debris was found and the crew of a passing boat reported a strong smell of diesel in the area, the search was stood down at around 2am, with no sign of the boat or the missing men.
The search resumed with the fishing vessel Emma Elizabeth and a local man on a jet ski arriving shortly before 5am.
Relatives, friends and dozens of concerned locals began arriving in the area and watched the ongoing search operation from the shore.
The Waterford and Shannon-based rescue helicopters were also sent to assist, which meant that three of the country’s four coastguard helicopters were involved in the search at different times.
At around 6.30am, several fish boxes and a number of nets and buoys were located, leading search teams to believe they had located the general area where the boat might have sank.
More than a dozen search boats, fishing trawlers, RIBs and jet skis gathered in the area and spent some time recovering nets, believed to be from the missing boat, to make the area safe for Garda and naval divers.
The Garda underwater unit arrived at around midday and were preparing to launch when it was confirmed that the boat had been located with the help of sonar equipment. Soon after noon, divers from Kilkee Marine Rescue Service and Burren Sub Aqua Club located the bodies in about 33 metres of water.
Both men were in the wheelhouse and didn’t have time to escape. It’s also understood that neither man was wearing a life jacket at the time.
Prayers were said at Mass in Mullagh yesterday morning while there was a large turnout when the bodies were brought ashore to Seafield Pier in Quilty.
Mr Dickinson’s partner is due a baby next month.
Mr Galvin is survived by his wife, Liz, as well as two sons and a daughter who are making their way home from Australia.
The Marine Casualty Investigation Board is to carry out an investigation while gardaí will undertake their own probe.
While the boat was fitted with a VHF radio, no distress call was made. There was speculation the boat may have got caught on ropes and may have been taking on water for a time before the men realised they were in danger.
One local man said: “I can’t believe it. No one can. It was so calm out there on Monday and no one saw anything.
“Whatever happened it must have happened very quickly. It sounds to me like that stern got dragged down somehow and the boat took on water very quickly. It’s a shocking tragedy.”
Local priest Fr Pat Larkin said: “There is great shock, sadness and disbelief here after this terrible tragedy. But there is a sense of relief that the bodies of both men have been found and can be returned to their families.”
Local councillor and close friend of the Galvin family Michael Hillery said: “No one knows what happened and no one can believe it. Conditions were ideal on Monday and both were experienced fishermen so it makes it all the harder to understand.”
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