Relatives clasp hands and pray after fishing village wakes to nightmare


SEAFARING FOLK navigating the notoriously dangerous entrance to Glandore Harbour obey one rule as a priority, avoid Adam, hug Eve.

The two rocky islands can be passed on either side, but trawlers returning to the picturesque fishing village of Union Hall veer east of Adam, the first island encountered at the mouth of the harbour. Sleeping residents woke to the sound of a Coast Guard helicopter hovering overhead, working its way over and back between the villages of Glandore and Union Hall at 7am.

As the dark grey mist of a miserable morning turned lighter, those same residents watched boats bobbing about in the choppy waters, searching.

These images will remain etched on the minds of a coastal people who have experienced their worst tragedy.

Five men were still missing as darkness descended on the pier at Union Hall yesterday.

Relatives gathered and looked desperately out to sea, their faces etched in shock. Huddled together on the pier as the searching crew members made their grim return, families who never met before clasped hands and prayed.

The Tit Bonhommeran aground at 6am yesterday. Mohammed Abd Elgwad, a 40-year-old father of three, managed to scramble on to rocks on the mainland where he was picked up by rescue services.

His brother, Wael Abd Elgwad, was missing last night and the whereabouts of the rest of the crew was unknown.

Mohammed Ali Eldine, whose 24-year-old son is among the lost crew members, faltered as a piece of drift net from the stricken vessel was hoisted on to the pier.

“I have no words,” he said. The misery in his eyes conveyed more than any words could.

While relatives of the missing fishermen stood watching the water, all around them search and rescue crews, paramedics, gardaí and local residents were busy.

Debris recovered as the tide dropped was delivered and packed away for collection by marine officials: flares, a first aid kit, a black rucksack.

Ryan O’Mahony, a 21-year-old Civil Defence volunteer from Baltimore, sipped hot soup and braved a watery smile as his replacement crew departed the pier in their inflatable boat to comb the choppy seas.

“It’s pretty rough out there. But when you see family members of lost crewmen here and what they are going through, you want to do your best to help them,” he said.

He was one of 28 trained volunteers working from the pier. A further 60 men and women will be ready to abandon their normal lives over the coming days to help locate those lost.

O’Mahony specialises in the water rescue section, offering his skills and six years experience.

“The currents change at Adam and Eve all the time, its a dangerous entrance to navigate.

“There is a gale force wind blowing right through it like a tunnel. But we all know these waters well and that helps in situations like this,” he said.

That same southeasterly gale took the Tit Bonhommeon to the rocks on the western side of Adam Island, where it now sits in its watery grave, shedding debris into the harbour and further hampering the rescue operation.

Fisherman Martin Deasy is a friend of missing skipper Michael Hayes, a father of four who commuted to Union Hall from his home in Waterford to fish the west Cork coastline.

“He only bought that boat about six months ago,” Mr Deasy said, as he tied up his trawler with the determined work ethos of a seasoned seaman, his mind focused on the mission at hand.

Standing on the pier in the driving rain as the search operation wound up for the night, Joe O’Neill, a local fisherman working the trawlers since he was 14, summed up the horror visited upon this quiet close-knit village.

“This is the worst tragedy ever to happen in Union Hall.”


Friday, January 13thFishing vessel Tit Bonhommeleaves Union Hall.

Yesterday, 5.53amEmergency Control Centre in Limerick receives a 999 call from a member of the crew alerting them to the fact the boat is in difficulty and starting to sink. The call is immediately transferred to the Irish Coast Guard Marine Rescue Co-ordination Centre on Valentia Island, which tasks both Irish Coast Guard helicopters based at Shannon and Waterford and RNLI Baltimore Lifeboat to respond.

7.25amCoast Guard helicopter from Shannon arrives on the scene and begins sweep of Glandore Harbour.

7.31amBaltimore RNLI Lifeboat arrives on the scene and joins in the search operation.

7.50amCoast Guard helicopter from Waterford arrives on the scene and assists in searching the area.

8.08amCoast Guard helicopter picks up survivor Abdul Mohamed and airlifts him to Cork University Hospital.

9.15amCourtmacsherry RNLI arrives on scene to assist while up to a dozen local fishing boats have also joined in the sea search. Meanwhile on land, a major search operation is under way involving gardaí, local volunteer members of West Cork Civil Defence and Coast Guard search teams from Toe Head, Glandore, Castlefreke and Sevens Head.

12.33pmCoast Guard helicopters from Shannon and Waterford leave the scene to refuel and allow new crews to take over search mission.

3.30pm LE Niamharrives on the scene to help co-ordinate the sea search for the missing men.

4pmGarda divers arrive at the scene along with divers from the Naval Service and visit the scene of the sinking but decide to defer diving until today as conditions are not deemed safe.

6pmSearch is stood down for the night, it will resume at 8am today.