Report into 2008 sinking of 'Asgard II' off French coast to be published within weeks

 

A REPORT into what caused the sinking of the Asgard IIoff the coast of France two years ago is expected to be published in the next fortnight.

The report, by the Marine Casualty Investigation Board, is understood to be completed and will be proof-read and printed in the coming days. Waterford deep sea diver Eoin McGarry led an independent expedition on to the wreck in July and contributed his findings to the board on his return to Ireland.

Asgard IIwas heading from Falmouth to La Rochelle for routine maintenance when it was lost. The Asgard II’s captain, Colm Newport, abandoned ship when he found water coming in to the bow section of the ship. The five crew and 20 trainees on board were rescued.

The wreck now lies on the seabed, 21 miles from the French island of Belle Ille in the Bay of Biscay. Despite public campaigns to have Asgard IIsalvaged – two official underwater salvage feasibility surveys were commissioned when a salvage operation was still possible – the vessel was not raised.

Instead, the insurance payout of €3.8 million received for Asgard IIwas transferred to the Department of Finance as “extra exchequer receipts”. Coiste an Asgard, the Department of Defence board that managed sail training, was axed as part of Government cutbacks in the subsequent budget.

The only people to see Asgard IIsince then have been the five members of Mr McGarry’s diving expedition. They found the wreck upright but listing to starboard. The brigantine had been damaged by trawler nets, with its masts and rigging torn away as a result.

In poor visibility on the seabed and with a broken deck house, “ Asgardlooked a sad and sorry state”, according to McGarry.

The team retrieved artifacts such as the ship’s wheel, bell and compass and brought them home to Ireland with the hope that they could be displayed in the National Maritime Museum.

There is little doubt now that Asgard IIis condemned to its watery grave. After 30 years of service, few will argue the ship was approaching the end of its working life. Commissioned on March 7th, 1981, and purpose-built as a sail training vessel by Jack Tyrrell, it was named after the Asgard, a yacht which ran weapons for the Irish Volunteers.

Asgard IIhowever is worth much more to Ireland than the sum of its timbers. The green vessel performed many roles and served the State as a national icon, travelling as far as Australia.

In addition, 10,000 people from all different backgrounds were able to get out on the water and learn how to sail.

In the words of Capt Newport, “Asgard II was a bridge between the land and the sea”.

Irish sail training has seen its fleet reduced from two well-known vessels, the Asgard IIand Ocean Youth Trust Ireland’s Lord Rank, to zero, with both boats being struck down by separate accidents. No progress has been made on finding a replacement.