The body of missing skipper, Michael Hayes, one of two fishermen missing since the Tit Bonhomme sunk in rough seas over three weeks ago, was finally recovered from Glandore Harbour.
In a remarkable twist of fate, it was the skipper’s brother, Chief Super-intendent Tom Hayes, who spotted the remains.
Michael Hayes, a 52-year-old father-of-five from Helvick Head in Co Waterford, and Egyptian crewman, Saied Aly Eldin, 23, had been missing since Mr Hayes’ trawler sank off Adam Island at the mouth of the harbour as it returned from a prawn fishing trip early on Sunday, January 15, with the loss of five lives.
The bodies of crewmen Kevin Kershaw, Attea Shaban and Wael Mohamad were recovered days after the tragedy The massive search for Mr Hayes and Mr Aly Eldin was scaled back on Sunday after an intensive three-week operation.
But Chief Supt Hayes was on board a rigid inflatable boat with Michael’s brother-in-law Paddy Kelly, and local volunteer Niall Deasy, sweeping the shore at low tide just after 12.30pm when they spotted a body at Prison Cove on the eastern side of the harbour.
The body was about 200 metres off shore and about one mile north of Adam Island. Around the same time, civil defence volunteer George Vladisavljevic spotted the body from a clifftop. Civil Defence coordinator Niall Twomey called in the Toe Head Coast Guard unit which recovered the body.
Searchers had scoured the same area 30 minutes earlier and found nothing.
“It was just that little bit of luck that we needed for the huge effort that’s been put in,” Mr Twomey said.
It is understood a strong south-easterly wind, combined with rough seas, churned up the seabed causing the remains to surface.
The families of both missing fishermen — including Mr Hayes’ wife, Caitlín, and their children, Lia, Micheál, Ferdia, Ealga and Dearbhaila along with Saied’s father, Mohammed — were alerted and brought together on the pier at Union Hall. There were incredibly emotional scenes as the remains were brought ashore and positively identified.
Saied’s father, Mohammed, the strain of the last three weeks etched on his face, was among the mourners.
Fr Pierce Cormac, who has been supporting both families for the last three weeks, said: “Obviously Michael’s family is heartbroken on one level but happy, on another level, that he has been found. But their thoughts turned immediately to Saied’s family. It is their hope, wish and prayer that the search for Saied continues with the same intensity.”
Fr Cormac revealed that despite their grief, Mr Hayes’ sons, Micheál and Ferdia, rejoined the search for Saied later. He said it was Caitlín’s expressed wish that her heartfelt thanks be conveyed to everyone who has been involved in the search and support effort.
“The support has been beyond anything they could have imagined,” Fr Cormac said.
Bishop of Cork and Ross, Most Reverend Dr John Buckley, also sympathised with the Hayes family and said the tragedy, and the overwhelming response from all over Ireland, had highlighted the importance of local emergency services.
Mr Hayes’ coffin was shouldered off the pier, from where he set sail three weeks ago, by his family, by people involved in the search, and by members of the Egyptian community.
Mr Twomey said the recovery of his body has given renewed focus to the search for Saied which will be stepped up over the coming days.