Naval service divers are due to dive tomorrow on areas of interest identified in Dunmanus Bay as the search for the missing young fisherman feared drowned off Cork continues.
The areas were identified today by a research vessel equipped with sea-mapping sonar which was among several vessels involved in the multi-agency search which was launched after Kodie Healy, 24, from Goleen, failed to return from a lobster potting trip on Wednesday.
A heavy swell hampered diving operations today but a forecast of good weather fuelled hopes of more detailed dives across the weekend.
The detail emerged this evening after a conference involving naval service officers, Supt Declan O'Sullivan and senior coast guard officers, on board the Irish Naval Service patrol ship, the LE George Bernard Shaw, under the command of Lt Cmdr Philip Dicker, which is acting as on-scene commander for the Valentia Coast Guard Marine Coordination Centre.
They spent the day coordinating a massive search operation involving up to 10 trawlers from Union Hall, Castletownbere, Bantry and Dingle, several smaller vessels and Castletownbere lifeboat, of some 20-nautical sq miles of Dunmanus Bay, between Bird Island and Dunbeacon.
The trawlers, including the Aine Christina from Union Hall, skippered by Pat Deasy, sailed in a line alongside each other, with crew on board doing visual checks, before doubling back on their tracks. One vessel was trawling a net.
Mr Deasy said they all came to help a family struck by tragedy: “It’s just what you do. There is a real sense of camaraderie in the fishing community. It could be one of us tomorrow."
Tom Kennedy, skipper of the Fiona K, who sailed from Dingle at 4am yesterday to join the search, said: “We are like one big family. We help each other and they would do the same for us."
Niall Duffy, a trustee of the fishermans’ charity LAST (Lost at Sea Tragedies), which provides financial and emotional support to those at the centre of sea tragedies, said when a family is in need, everyone rallies together:
We’re all one tight-knit family. We rely on each other - at sea and on shore. On behalf of the fishing community, I would like to express our thanks to all the volunteers who have given up their time and effort to help in this search operation.
Mr Healy, a young but experienced fisherman from Goleen, who has fished over the years on trawlers on the Porcupine Bank and as far north as Rockall, set off on his own on Wednesday morning on board his six-metre fishing boat to tend to lobster pots in the bay.
Sea conditions at the time were described as rough, with a swell of up to two metres. It would have been challenging for the small vessel hauling pots close to shore in such a heavy swell.
There are fears that Mr Healy was not wearing a lifejacket or an EPIRB - an electronic device that triggers upon contact with water to pinpoint a person’s location.
The alarm was raised at around 8.30pm on Wednesday when he was overdue.
The Coast Guard launched a large sea, air and shore search, involving the Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 115 and RNLI lifeboats from Castletownbere and Baltimore.
Debris found on the shores of Carbery Island that night was positively identified yesterday as a railing belonging to Mr Healy’s boat.
Search coordinators have used sophisticated software to predict the movement of debris based on tide and current patterns. But they are relying heavily on the knowledge of the local skippers about the flow of water in and around the bay.
As the vessels scoured the sea today, volunteers from Schull and Goleen Coast Guard units, backed by volunteers and a drone team from the Civil Defence, and dozens of other volunteers, scoured the rugged coastline.