Donegal drownings: two male victims named locally

RNLI says men were in the water for ‘three to four’ hours before they were rescued

A man looks out to sea at Port Ronan close to Malin Head, in Co Donegal where two people died after a fishing boat sank on Tuesday. Photograph: Margaret McLaughlin

A man looks out to sea at Port Ronan close to Malin Head, in Co Donegal where two people died after a fishing boat sank on Tuesday. Photograph: Margaret McLaughlin

 

Two people who died when their 15ft fishing vessel capsized off Malin Head in Co Donegal have been named locally.

Two males, a 16-year-old named as Thomas Weir and Gerry Doherty, who was in his 60s and was from Malin and was believed to be living in Burt, died after the boat sank.

The men were related and it is understood Mr Weir, originally from Scotland, had been living in Derry for the past number of months

Mr Doherty’s body was found near the shoreline close to an area known locally as Banba’s crown just before 6pm. He had been in the water for several hours and when recovered from the water was carried half a mile to the road where a local doctor pronounced him dead at the scene.

Another man in his 50s, Dessie Keenan, survived and was released from hospital on Wednesday. He clung to a buoy for several hours before being rescued. A fishing boat returning to port spotted and saved him.

There is no indication yet as to what caused the boat to capsize. Conditions were described as good. But Joe Joyce from Lough Swilly RNLI lifeboat said the waters off Malin Head were among the most treacherous in the world.

The party of three left Malin Head at 9am. It is thought that they got into difficulty at about midday when the boat was swamped and all three ended up in the water.

The boat was owned by Gerry Doherty. It is believed the engine lost power when the men were only half a mile out to sea. But it was not until 4pm that the alarm was raised when visitors staying in a nearby cottage heard cries for help.

They alerted Malin Head Coastguard station. The first person taken from the water was Mr Weir who was discovered in the water wearing a lifejacket. He was taken to Altnagelvin Area Hospital in Derry, but died despite the best efforts of medics.

The search and rescue operation involved lifeboat crews from the Lough Swilly RNLI, the Malin Head Coast Guard and the Coast Guard 118 Helicopter. File photograph.
The search and rescue involved lifeboat crews from the Lough Swilly RNLI, the Malin Head Coast Guard and the Coast Guard 118 Helicopter. File photograph: The Irish Times

Exactly what happened to cause the men’s boat to capsize will be the subject of two investigations. Garda Insp Eugene McGovern confirmed that the boat has been recovered and will be examined. Those investigations will be carried out by the gardaí and Marine Casualty Investigation Board.

Mr Joyce said the vessel would have went down very quickly.

“Once outside the cabin with the engine on the back, they would have had a small enough space to be on. The back of the boat would have gone down first with the weight of the engine. They would have found themselves in the water very quickly,” he said.

Once in the freezing waters, the men are understood to have stayed close to the hull of the upturned boat before drifting from each other. They were in the water for at least four hours.

The father of one of the men who perished also drowned in the same area. Gerry Doherty’s father, Paddy Malin Doherty, drowned when he slipped and fell off rocks almost 40 years ago while crabbing in the same area.