Inquiry begins into deaths of three anglers in boat blaze

Marine accident investigators will begin an inquiry today into a boat fire which claimed the lives of three anglers.

Marine accident investigators will begin an inquiry today into a boat fire which claimed the lives of three anglers.

An Irishman and two German men were killed when their 25ft motor cruiser, the Castaway, sank off west Cork.

Two of the dead were named locally as Richard Harmon, from Glengarriff, and German Mike Schmidt, who had been living in the popular tourist spot for about 20 years.

Mr Harmon’s family and friends gathered in a pub in the tourist village last night as locals offered their sympathies.

The 69-year-old, who was due to celebrate his 70th birthday next month, was a retired farmer and auctioneer and well known in the community through his work and activism with Fine Gael.

Mr Schmidt, who retired after moving to Glengarriff, was an experienced seaman after spending years working on the merchant navy.

The third man who died was believed to have been living between Glengarriff and the Bantry area.

All the men were believed to be in their 60s.

A fourth man from America, the only survivor, was described as walking wounded after being winched to safety from the water.

Officials from the Marine Casualty Investigation Board and the Garda will carry out an inquiry into the incident.

It is understood investigations will centre on whether an explosion in the engine caused the fire.

The tragedy occurred about half a mile from shore in Bantry Bay, near Adrigole harbour, at around 5.30pm, 12 miles from Glengarriff.

The Waterford-based coastguard rescue helicopter, which had been on a separate mission in the Caha mountains on the Beara peninsula when the alarm was raised, was on the scene within minutes.

All four men were in the water when it arrived.

An RNLI lifeboat crew from nearby Castletownbere, a Customs surveillance boat and a French-registered yacht also attended the rescue attempt.

The helicopter crew winched the four men from the water.

Mr Harmon and the two Germans were pronounced dead when brought ashore in Castletownbere.

The American survivor was treated in Bantry General Hospital.

Paul Stevens, from Castletownbere RNLI, said the motor cruiser sank shortly after the rescue attempt.

“By the time the rescue helicopter came on the scene very quickly the four casualties were in the water,” he said. “Whether they abandoned ship we don’t know.”

An RNLI spokeswoman said the Castletownbere lifeboat crew was paged at 5.41pm.

The boat sank a short while later off Roancarrig, about seven miles from the fishing port.

Conditions were calm at the time with some light fog in the bay, the spokeswoman said.

Post-mortem examinations are expected to be carried out at Cork University Hospital today.

Authorities are attempting to trace the German and American men’s families.

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