Body recovered in search for fisherman Willie Whelan

Two died off Wexford coast when trawler Alize went down off Hook Head, January 4th

The body of fisherman William "Willie" Whelan has been recovered from a sunken trawler by divers off the Wexford coast.

The 41-year-old from Saltmills, Co Wexford, disappeared when the trawler, Alize, an 11.7m (38ft) steel-hulled vessel, sank off Hook Head on January 4th at about 10.45pm.

His body was spotted at about 11.30am on Wednesday last by Hook Sub Aqua Club divers inside the vessel. But it took 48 hours to bring it to the surface as the recovery operation was complex due to a large amount of debris around the trawler.

Several dives were carried out over the last several days by Naval Service and Garda personnel and his body was eventually brought to the surface from 50m below at about midday on Friday. Personnel were operating from the Commissioners of Irish Lights vessel LV Granuaile, with support from LÉ Samuel Beckett .


His body was then taken aboard the LÉ Samuel Beckett and was due to be brought ashore on Friday evening, according to a Defence Forces statement.

A spokesperson for the Whelan family said: “Our beloved son, husband, brother and friend has been recovered from the sea finally, at last. Hook Sub Aqua Club ... these people are truly amazing and deserve such respect and admiration. Thank you again to each and every one of you. I literally can’t put into words how grateful the Whelan family are.”

Gardaí and naval divers were assisted in recent days by members of local sub-aqua units. The search has been supported by the Waterford-based Coast Guard helicopter and the Air Corps Casa marine-surveillance aircraft.

Unable to raise the alarm

Mr Whelan and his his fellow fisherman, Joe Sinnott, died when their trawler sank about 8km off Hook Head. The men were scallop fishing when the vessel went down in unexplained circumstances. The emergency services were alerted to the vessel being in trouble when the Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon was activated. It is thought the men were unable to raise the alarm such was the speed at which the sinking occurred.

Mr Sinnott (65) from Kilmore Quay was taken from the sea but died shortly after being airlifted to University Hospital Waterford. Both had impeccable safety records with trawlers and when out fishing. Mr Whelan hailed from a well-known fishing family in Co Wexford.

At Joe Sinnott’s funeral Mass, his son Michael said his father’s spirit was now trying to guide the recovery operation for his great pal Willie.

Mr Whelan married last year.