Sea search off Donegal suspended


A sea search for a Donegal fisherman who has been missing since a lobster boat with two on board sank off the Inishowen peninsula yesterday has been called off for the night.

The body of Edward Doherty (65), one of the two men on board the 26ft Jennifer, was recovered yesterday, and his vessel was located and retrieved by divers close to Glengad pier, south of Malin Head.

Mr Doherty’s nephew, Robert McLaughlin (41), was still missing today when an air-sea and coastal search was suspended in deteriorating weather at 3pm.

A spokesman for Malin Head marine rescue centre (who are co-ordinating the search) said visibility is poor and the very severe weather conditions meant the search was suspend for safety reasons.

The Irish Coast Guard Sligo-based Sikorsky search-and-rescue helicopter, RNLI Lough Swilly and Portrush lifeboats and up to 15 local dive and fishing boats took part in today’s search.

Greencastle Coast Guard team coordinated an extensive shore-search with members of the local community and underwater cameras trawled the location where the Jennifer sank.

The search covered an area from Malin Head to Inisowen Head and extended three-miles off shore.

The alarm was raised after 10.30am yesterday by a local fishing vessel which reported that a boat was in difficulties. Mr Doherty’s body was later retrieved from the sea.

It is believed the pair had left Portlenane pier at Glengad early yesterday to check on pots.

The weather was reported to be fine when the men cast off, but the forecast was for gale-force winds and poor visibility.

Yesterday afternoon four divers using a remotely operated vehicle located the fibreglass vessel in 10m of water about 100 yards off the Glengad shoreline.

The divers put a rope on the vessel and raised it to the surface, towing it ashore. There were no indications that the vessel had been holed, but its gear was still on the sea bed.

Billy Farren, a cousin and neighbour of the late Mr Doherty, from Ross Head, said the entire community was devastated.

“It’s just a mystery as to what happened. Edward was a very experienced fisherman. You would not have got a safer fisherman.

“Fishing was his life. Both men were very well known and very liked in the community.”

The late Mr Doherty, whose wife Marion was being consoled at their home by the couple’s six children, owned two boats, including the Jennifer. He was well known as an accomplished participant in local céilí circles.

“You just wouldn’t get a more decent man,” Mr Farren said.

He added that the most important thing now was for the rescue crews to find the body of Mr McLaughlin if, as thought, he too has drowned.

“That’s the most difficult part for Robert’s family now.

“They live on the hill overlooking the sea.”

Mr McLaughlin was a single man who lived for fishing, according to locals.

The Marine Casualty Investigation Board is expected to investigate the sinking, which is the second in just over two years in the area. In March 2008, two brothers, Francis (68) and Danny McDaid (70) from Glengad, were rescued but subsequently died in hospital. Their 10m vessel Strath Marie sank just over three miles east off Inishowen Head.

The search is expected to continue at first light and rescuers will be hoping tomorrow morning’s low-tide 9.30am will assist.