Search for missing fishermen scaled back after weeks of intensive effort

Mon, Feb 6, 2012, 00:00

THE SEARCH for two missing fishermen off the Cork coast was scaled down last night after three weeks of intensive searching involving hundreds of personnel.

More than 50 civilian divers from Mayo, Drogheda, Dundalk, Kilkenny, Waterford, Limerick, Kerry and Cork travelled again to Union Hall at the weekend to assist with the search operation.

Local shoreline searches will resume at low water today for the skipper of the Tit Bonhomme, 52-year- old father-of-five, Michael Hayes, from Helvick Head in Co Waterford, and his missing Egyptian crewman Said Mohamed (23).

Both men were lost when the Tit Bonhomme went down after hitting Adam Island at the mouth of Glandore Bay on the morning of January 15th in stormy seas, as the trawler returned from a three-day prawn fishing trip.

Only one of the six men aboard survived – Abdul Mohammed (42) – but over the following days the bodies of three other crew members, Kevin Kershaw (21) and Egyptians Attea Shaban (26) and Wael Mohammed (35), were recovered.

Since the tragedy, the Coast Guard with the Naval Service co- ordinated a major sea search involving Navy and Garda divers, while the Coast Guard, Civil Defence and Garda carried out shoreline searches around Glandore Bay.

As Naval Service and Garda divers continued to search a 100m area close to where the Tit Bonhomme sank, the civilian divers searched in pairs a much broader area stretching towards Long Point, where survivor Abdul Mohammed was found.

However, while visibility in the water improved yesterday, the search failed to recover the bodies of the two missing men.

John Draper of the Irish Coast Guard confirmed that the major search operation, which yesterday also involved an Irish Coast Guard helicopter, was being scaled back and that the operation would be re-evaluated today in light of available resources.

Among those visiting the scene on Saturday was Taoiseach Enda Kenny who spent two hours meeting the families and thanking the searchers for their efforts.

There were emotional scenes during prayers on the pierside yesterday evening as members of the Hayes family, including Michael’s wife, Caitlín, hugged and embraced, while Said Mohammed’s father, Mohammed also looked on, supported by Egyptian friends.

Fr Pierse Cormac, who has been supporting the families over the past three weeks, informed people yesterday on the pierside that searches would continue this week, with volunteers searching the coastline at low water mark.

“It’s been a very difficult time for the families who wait every hour and sometimes every minute for news... It’s with the goodwill of people that this search, while it’s scaled down on one level, will continue – searchers will take it day by day over the coming week.”