Three-week search for two fishermen to be scaled back

Fishermen could be off-ered grants to buy personal distress and location beacons under proposals being considered by the marine minister, Simon Coveney.

The news emerged last night as the massive search operation for two fisherman missing for three weeks in Glandore Harbour was scaled back.

Skipper Michael Hayes, 52, from Waterford, and Egyptian crewman Saied Aly Eldin, 23, have been missing since Mr Hayes’s trawler, the Tit Bonhomme, sank in rough seas off Adam Island at the mouth of the harbour early on Sunday, Jan 15.

Egyptian national Abdo Mohamad was the only survivor. The bodies of crewmen Kevin Kershaw, Attea Shaban and Wael Mohamad were recovered.

Mr Coveney said last night his thoughts are with the families of the missing men as the search is scaled back. “It has been a very traumatic three weeks for all concerned. It has been agony for them,” he said.

“We have to learn lessons from this tragedy and I am pushing very hard to ensure that other families don’t have to go through the same agony, and that we don’t have these three-week searches in future.”

He has discussed the personal location device proposal with fisheries groups, the Coast Guard and rescue organisations, and said his department is examining the issue.

The electronic devices are about the size of a keyring and can be triggered manually or when immersed in water.

They would allow rescuers use GPS technology to quickly locate fishermen who have fallen overboard, or to recover the bodies of those lost at sea.

Mr Hayes’s daughter, Lia, last night issued heartfelt thanks to everyone who has been involved in the search.

Lia, who spent another day on the pier with her mother Caitlín and siblings Micheál, Ferdia, Ealga and Dearbhail, said that the family “really appreciate” everything everybody has done.

“It’s really important to us that we find him. I am confident that we can find him,” she said. “And the support that we’ve had over the last three weeks gives us hope.

“They are long, tough days waiting on the pier. But they would have been a lot tougher without the support from the people of Union Hall, and all over.

“The people of Union Hall have been incredible, the fishermen, the divers, and people making the food on the pier, and all the agencies involved.

“We have had huge support and lots of kind words. That keeps you going.”

She also thanked Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who spent almost two hours in Union Hall on Saturday.

In yesterday’s operation, overseen by the Irish Customs cutter, Faire, about 50 divers completed a fingertip search of a vast area of seabed between the wreck site and a nearby headland. It had begun last weekend.

Dive co-ordinator John Kearney said that poor visibility slowed progress. “But the area has now been thoroughly searched and we know they are not there,” he said.

“This allows us to focus our dives closer to Adam Island and the wreck.”

Mr Kearney said the state could learn valuable lessons from the involvement of recreational divers in the search operation.

From today, local Coast Guard teams will mount low-water shoreline searches but dozens of divers have volunteered to continue diving this week.

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