Survivor: ‘Rest of the crew still down there’

THE only surviving fisherman from a trawler sunk off the south-west coast believes the five other crewmen’s bodies are still within the submerged vessel.

Grieving Egyptian Abdo Mohamad arrived in Union Hall, Co Cork, yesterday after being discharged from hospital and agonisingly watched the ongoing search for his brother, Wael, aged 32, and the other occupants of the trawler Tit Bonhomme which sank after hitting rocks in Glandore Bay around 6am last Sunday.

The 40-year-old, who wore a sling on his arm after suffering injuries when the boat crashed into Adam’s Island in the mouth of the bay, was escorted to the search headquarters by gardaí after requesting that he console and show solidarity with the other families searching for their loved ones.

He asked, along with other families, that prayer be said at the quayside at noon.

According to his friend, fellow Egyptian Nezar Arafa, who had traveled from Mullingar to be with Mr Mohamad, he is inconsolable about the loss of his brother and other fellow crewmen.

“He is shocked and couldn’t stop crying. He felt guilty (to survive). The weather was very bad, there were rough seas and then they hit rocks.”

He said Mr Mohamad told him that when the ship hit rocks the crew were interspersed within the vessel, some above and others below deck. It is understood that the skipper, Michael Hayes, a 52-year-old experienced fisherman from Waterford, immediately told the crew to don life jackets.

“The wheelhouse windows were then broken by (force of) the water. Abdo was told to open the doors to let out the water and he was washed out with it,’’ he said.

Mr Mohamad started swimming and lost his lifejacket before finding it again and managing to scramble safely to shore.

“He believes the rest of the crew are down there. They (the divers) will have to find them,’’ Mr Arafa added.

The missing include the vessel’s skipper, father-of-five Mr Hayes, who comes from Waterford. Crewman Kevin Kershaw, a 21-year-old from Dublin who was on his first fishing trip, is also missing.

Sole survivor Mr Mohamad, is like many other Egyptians fishing out of Cork ports and comes from Rosetta, a small town 50km east of Alexandria.

Two of his fellow townsmen, Saied Aly Eldin, 25, and his cousin Attia Shaban, 24, are also unaccounted for.

Mr Hayes’ wife, Caitlín, joined the search yesterday and diplomatic efforts are being used to ease efforts to fly two of her daughters home.

Paddy Kershaw, who joined a trawler search for his son, Kevin, described him as “a lovely young lad’’ who was a great asset to Clonakilty where he had lived for some time. He acknowledged that it had been very difficult for navy divers to enter the wreck because of the prevailing conditions.

Navy sources said weather forecasts were not good and unless they change in the next 36-48 hours their divers wouldn’t be able to enter the submerged vessel in an attempt to retrieve any bodies.

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