Man dies, 10 rescued after boat capsizes off Wexford

The group clung to the small boat for five hours after it capsized near Saltee Islands

The Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) is leading inquiries into the death of a 73-year-old man and the rescue of nine people after a pleasure boat was swamped off the Co Wexford coast.

All 10 were wearing lifejackets when located by the Saltee Islands ferry boat An Crossan, working with the RNLI Kilmore Quay lifeboat, in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Remained together

The group, including a woman and a teenage boy, had been in the water for five hours and remained together with the upturned boat when located about one kilometre south of the Great Saltee, the largest of the two islands, which are some five kilometres off the coast.

The 73-year-old man, named as Francis Smith, from Salisbury in England, had lost consciousness, and was transferred immediately to the lifeboat.

He was given emergency medical assistance and winched on board the Irish Coast Guard Waterford-based rescue helicopter.

Mr Smith was pronounced dead at Waterford University Hospital. He is understood to have been visiting in-laws in Ferns, north Wexford, as part of a family get-together.

The incident occurred at about 7pm on Saturday evening, some hours after the group launched the boat from Kilmore Quay to go angling.

Survivors said that the six-metre vessel was navigating Saltee Sound when it was hit by a wave, which smashed its wheelhouse window and swamped it.

Weather conditions were favourable, but the area is known for its choppy seas due to uneven ground and strong tidal streams, especially during a full moon.

The alarm was raised by a relative at about 11.15pm, when the boat had not returned to port.

The lifeboat and island ferry launched at 11.30pm, and the RNLI Fethard-on-Sea and Rosslare lifeboats were also tasked to assist, along with an Irish Coast Guard helicopter.

The Kilmore Quay lifeboat crew, with coxswain Eugene Kehoe, were making their way towards Ballyteigue and the Coningmore Rocks when they received contact from the An Crossan saying it had spotted an upturned hull south of the Great Saltee.

Cut engine

The ferry crew had cut the engine to fix a search light, and then heard shouting.

The nine survivors were taken by An Crossan to Kilmore Quay, where they were given clothing, blankets and hot drinks and taken by ambulance to Wexford General Hospital.

“Given the length of time in the water they were lucky to have survived, for water temperatures were low at that particular time,” Mr Kehoe said.

Aidan Bates, a Kilmore Quay RNLI Volunteer, said it was “crucial” the group were wearing lifejackets, given the length of time they were in the water.

“To survive hypothermia for that length is pretty amazing. It was probably down to the fact there were all wearing lifejackets,” he said.