South coast marked by tragedies

Mon, Jan 16, 2012, 00:00

TRAWLER TRAGEDY:THE WEST Cork town from which the fisherman on board the ill-fated Tit Bonhommeoperated was the scene of a rescue operation just last month.

On December 11th three crew members had to be rescued from a fishing vessel in trouble off Union Hall. The Jeanette Roberto, a 42ft fibreglass hull fishing boat, was returning to harbour in a heavy swell when it lost power.

The boat was forced on to rocks and the three crewmen abandoned ship in a life raft.

A distress call was put out and the Coast Guard helicopter was scrambled to assist. Another Union Hall-based vessel, the Sally Pamela was near the scene and rescued all three men.

However, other fisherman have not been as lucky and their relatives are often left without even the solace of having a body for burial.

Fishing-related drownings in the south in recent years include among others John Ennis (64) who lost his life after the small boat he was fishing on sank off the southeast coast at Duncannon, Co Wexford, on February 18th, 2011.

The boat left the pier at Arthurstown for the mussel fishing grounds and sank about 15 minutes later. The boat’s skipper, Richard McNamara, was able to swim to the shore.

Up to 1,000 people – from teenagers to pensioners – were involved in the non-stop, 24-hour searches for Mr Ennis. His body was recovered in late March last year.

On August 16th, 2010, three men who had set out on an angling trip lost their lives in west Cork. The three deceased were Richard Harman from Glengarriff, and Germans Mike Schmidt who lived in Glengarriff, and Wolfgang Schnoder, who was based in Bantry. All three were in their late 60s. A fourth man, American Ed Dzito (46), survived the sinking.

The incident happened when a fire broke out on board Mr Schmidt’s 25ft pleasure cruiser Castaway as the four friends

were on an angling trip some four miles south of Roancarrig lighthouse in Adrigole harbour, Bantry Bay. All three bodies were recovered.

On May 25th, 2010, father of four, John O’Brien (36) and his friend, father of one, Pat Esmonde (36) drowned after they ended up in the sea while fishing off Helvick Head near Dungarvan in Co Waterford. The bodies of the two men were found in 25 metres of water about 100 metres from where they were last seen. A native of Tipperary Town, Mr Esmonde was living at Derrygrath near Cahir, while Mr O’Brien was originally from Golden, Co Tipperary.

January 2007 was a particularly tragic month for the fishing industry with the sinking of the Pere Charles off Hook Head on the 10th and less than 12 hours later, in the early hours of the January 11th, the sinking of the Honeydew II off Ram Head near Ardmore, Co Waterford.

On board the Pere Charles which sank off the southeast coast were Tom Hennessy (32), his uncle, Pat Hennessy (48), Billy O’Connor (50); Pat Coady (27) and Ukrainian national Andriy Dyrin (32). Skipper and father of three Ger Bohan (39) from Kinsale and Polish crew member Tomas Yagla (32) died in the Honeydew II sinking.