Bodies of three men recovered from sea in Co Kerry
Sea anglers, understood to be Latvians, died when Rib overturned near Coonanna Harbour
The scene at Coonanna Harbour on Sunday evening. Authorities believe the three men had been out on the water fishing. Photograph: Alan Landers.
The bodies of three men who drowned when their Rigid Inflatable Boat capsized (Rib) while fishing off the south Kerry coast were recovered by emergency services on Sunday evening.
The sea anglers, understood to be Latvians living in Killarney, perished when their Rib overturned just outside Coonanna Harbour some 6km north of Cahersiveen. One of the men was in his 50s, and the other two are believed to be in their 30s, according to a Garda spokesman.
The men had been seen departing Coonana around midday and the alarm was raised shortly before 6pm when a local spotted the capsized Rib sinking off the eastern pier at Coonanna.
The Irish Coastguard Marine Rescue Centre at nearby Valentia Island launched an emergency operation and the Valentia RNLI lifeboat –John and Margaret Doig – was dispatched to the scene
The landbased Iveragh Search and Rescue Unit of the Irish Coastguard was also mobilised as was a local diving club which is affiliated to the Comhairle Fo-Thuin (the Irish Underwater Council).
Valentia Coastguard also tasked the Irish Coastguard Sikorski helicopter Rescue 115 to come from Shannon and the first body was recovered by the helicopter shortly before 7pm.
His body was brought ashore at Coonanna where a local undertaker removed it and transferred the remains by hearse to Kerry General Hospital.
The bodies of the last two men recovered from the sea were taken by the Irish Coastguard helicopter to Kerry Airport in Farranfore for transfer by road to Kerry General Hospital postmortems are scheduled to take place tomorrow morning.
It is believed that one of the men had been trying to make it ashore and his body was recovered not far off the pier of the sheltered harbour which is on the northern side of the Iveragh Peninsula.
It is understood that all three men were found to be wearing life jackets when their bodies were recovered from the sea by the Irish Coastguard helicopter crew.
According to one local source, the conditions were “fairly fresh” off Coonanna Sunday afternoon but the Rib that the three men were using was small and not suited to the surging Atlantic swells.
It is understood that although visibility was good at the time of the recovery, there was a strong north westerly wind blow with a strong swell close to the shore at Coonanna.
Valentia Lifeboat, which arrived to the scene within 20 minutes, remained on standby during the recovery operation by the Irish Coastguard before standing down at 7.45pm.
The men used to store their boat locally near Coonanna and were often seen heading off early on Sunday mornings to go fishing from the small and secluded harbour, a local source said.
The tragedy will be investigated by the Marine Casualty Investigation Board and it is hoped the Rib will be recovered to enable investigators assess its safety and suitability for the fishing expedition.
Meanwhile Supt Flor Murphy of Killarney Garda station confirmed that gardaí would be preparing files on the tragedy for an inquest at the Coroner’s Court at a later date.
“It’s very sad and obviously our sympathies are with their families at this very difficult time. It’s just a terrible accident and so sad that these men should lose their lives on a day out like this.”
Cllr Norma Moriarty from Cahersiveen said news of the tragedy was greeted with shock and dismay and although the deceased weren’t from the area, people’s sympathies went out to their families.
“It’s awful news - it seems they were living in Killarney but they used to come down to Coonanna regularly enough and they used to keep their boat there so locals would know them to see.
“It’s desperately sad for three men to lose their lives like this and everyone’s thoughts are with their families whether they are in Killarney or back in Latvia - it’s just awfully sad,” she said.
The tragedy is the second such boating incident to happen at Coonanna and follows a similar tragedy when an elderly couple lost their lives when their boat sank while fishing off Coonanna in 1997.
Paddy O’Donoghue, a native of Cahersiveen in his 70s and his wife, Kay, a British national, also in her 70s, went fishing for mackerel in their fibreglass boat on the afternoon of October 23rd, 1997.
The couple, who had lived for several years in the UK before moving to Cahersiveen, regularly went fishing from Coonanna for mackerel which Ms O’Donoghue used to sell at a stall in Killorglin.
It is thought that the couple encountered a huge shoal of mackerel due to unseasonably warm weather, leading to suspicions that their nets may have been overladen causing their boat to sink.
A search by the Irish Coastguard and Valentia Lifeboat found the body of Mr O’Donoghue early the following morning while the body of his wife was washed ashore later that afternoon.