Bodies of two men recovered after sinking of fishing vessel on Monday

Wed, Aug 15, 2012, 01:00

THE BODIES of two fishermen were recovered from the sea off Co Clare yesterday after their 26ft boat sank on Monday.

The reasons why the vessel sank, apparently very quickly in calm conditions, are to be investigated by the Marine Casualty Investigation Board.

Michael Galvin (64) and Noel Dickinson, who was in his late 20s, were relocating their lobster pots ahead of an anticipated storm.

Mr Galvin is survived by his wife Liz as well as two grown-up sons and a daughter who are making their way home from Australia.

It is understood Mr Dickinson’s partner is due to give birth next month.

The men’s boat, Lady Eileen, was last seen near Spanish Point at about 3pm on Monday. It was due back to its home port of Quilty at 5pm, but when there was still no sign of it at 7pm the alarm was raised and a large-scale search began.

The sunken vessel was located at midday yesterday and the men’s bodies were recovered shortly afterwards.

The boat was fitted with a VHF radio but no distress call was made. There was speculation locally that the craft may have got caught on ropes and have been taking on water for a time before the two men realised they were in danger.

One local man said: “I can’t believe it. No one can. It was so calm out there on Monday, and no one saw anything. Whatever happened, it must have happened very quickly. It sounds to me like the stern got dragged down somehow and the boat took on water very quickly. It’s a shocking tragedy.”

The early stages of the search operation on Monday evening involved the Doolin unit of the Irish Coast Guard and the Shannon-based search and rescue helicopter.

Search teams from Doolin and Kilkee also arrived as night fell and began water and land searches. Some debris was found and the crew of a passing boat reported a strong smell of diesel in the area.

The search was stood down at 2am yesterday, and resumed at 5am.

Three of the State’s four Coast Guard helicopters were involved at different times.

At about 6.30am, several fish boxes and a number of nets and buoys were located. More than a dozen search boats, fishing trawlers, rigid inflatable boats and jet skis gathered in the area and spent some time recovering the nets, believed to be from the missing boat, to make the area safe for Garda and Naval Service divers.

At midday it was confirmed the missing boat had been located with the help of sonar equipment.

Shortly afterwards, divers from Kilkee Marine Rescue Service and the Burren Sub Aqua Club located the bodies in about 33m (108ft) of water.

It is understood both bodies were located in the wheelhouse. They were brought to Seafield Pier near Quilty.

Three of the searchers had a fortunate escape yesterday when their boat was capsized by freak waves.

Patrick Quinlivan, Patrick Morrison and Brian O’Brien had travelled from Limerick to Spanish Point early yesterday to assist in the search.

At about 12.30pm, while they were searching off Freagh Point, north of White Strand, their 17ft fibreglass boat capsized after being hit by two freak waves. The men were thrown into the sea and were lucky not to have been hit by the boat as it was tossed about.

Search teams were quickly diverted to locate and recover the men. They had been in the water for about 20 minutes before they were located by members of the Killaloe Coast Guard unit and helped ashore north of White Strand.

Attempts to recover the boat were abandoned as conditions were too dangerous. It was later washed up on to rocks.

Prayers and a minute’s silence were held before the bodies were removed to the Mid Western Regional Hospital in Limerick for formal identification and postmortem.

Local priest Fr Pat Larkin said: “There is great shock, sadness and disbelief here after this terrible tragedy. But there is a sense of relief that the bodies of both men have been found and can be returned to their families.”