Inquest into death of fishermen who drowned heard boat sank ‘extremely quickly’

Coroner Sean Nixon said the tragic incident highlighted the ‘bravery of our fishing fleets’

Wexford based scalloper Alize  had received its certification as sea-worthy in 2018 and this was to remain valid until 2022.  Photo: Tony Muldoon

Wexford based scalloper Alize had received its certification as sea-worthy in 2018 and this was to remain valid until 2022. Photo: Tony Muldoon

 

The inquest into the deaths of two fishermen who drowned when the Alize went down off Hook Head in Wexford in January 2020 heard the boat sank “extremely quickly”.

The inquest returned verdicts of accidental death by drowning in the case of Joe Sinnott (65) from Kilmore Quay, Wexford and William Whelan (41) from Gurteens, Saltmills, Wexford.

The vessel was carrying 29 bags of scallops, weighing in at a tonne, well under the weight limit for the trawler of three tonnes.

The coroner Dr Sean Nixon offered commiserations to both families on their loss and said that this tragic incident once again served to “highlight the bravery of our fishing fleets, who work in very difficult conditions”.

Willie Whelan’s brother, also a fisherman, provided the opening evidence and said his brother and Mr Sinnott left Duncannon for what they planned would be a relatively short fishing trip on January 3rd. He said he spoke to his brother at approximately 6.50pm on the night the Alize sank and spoke about fishing.

Mr Whelan’s father, Joseph Whelan, said he also spoke to his son that evening. Willie told his father that they were “on the last haul” at around 8.45pm.

Health and Safety Inspector Edward Wall gave evidence that both skipper Willie Whelan and Joe Sinnott were vastly experienced and capable fishermen.

He said that the Alize was constructed in 1989 and had been “completely refurbished” by Mr Joseph Whelan when he purchased the vessel in 2013. The boat received its certification as sea-worthy in 2018 and this was to remain valid until 2022.

Coroner Dr Sean Nixon referenced the findings of a report from the Marine Casualty Investigations Board (MCIB).

“The fact that no distress signal was issued and no flares deployed, as well as the fact that the skipper’s body was found trapped behind equipment on the deck, indicates that the boat must have sank very quickly and capsized very quickly,” Dr Nixon said.

The cause of death for both crew members was drowning and Dr Nixon recommended that the jury return a verdict of accidental death in both cases. They agreed with the coroner’s recommendation.

Dr Nixon thanked all of the emergency services involved in the operation to recover both fishermen, as did both families.