By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — There is widespread shock in County Wexford after three generations of a New Ross family were among those who died when a fishing outing turned to tragedy and five people were drowned.
The tragedy happened after a fishing vessel, the Pisces, with 10 people on board, had set out from Fethard-on-Sea, Co. Wexford, Sunday morning.
The 26-foot vessel later sank in thick fog near Selskar Rock off Bannow Point, Co. Wexford, about a mile and a half from Fethard.
Gardai named the dead as Jim Cooney, 60, a New Ross undertaker, his son-in-law Seamus Doyle, 33, and his son Mark, 14. Mark’s brother Patrick, 12, was rescued.
The two others who died were John Cullen, who is believed to be in his 40s, from Rosbercon, and Martin Roche, who is in his 60s, from Galbally. Cullen’s son Paul was rescued.
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The others rescued were the Pisces skipper Patrick Barden, 63, Fethard, and two other youths, Shane O’Neill and Derek O’Connor.
Mark Doyle was the only one of the party who was not found after immediately after the sinking. After a widespread land and sea search on Monday, his body was recovered by divers from a local diving club about 150 meters from the sunken boat.
Divers say the sunken vessel is upright on the seabed in 12 meters of water. The hull appeared to be undamaged and there was no explanation why it had sunk so quickly.
The Fethard-on-Sea area officer for the Coast Guard, Declan Hearne, said about 20 vessels, including two lifeboats, were involved in the search after the tragedy but were hampered by poor visibility as a heavy sea mist shrouded the area around Hook Head and Fethard Bay. He said none of those on the trip appeared to have been wearing lifejackets.
Gemma Hearne, a nurse who treated the survivors, said survivors were in shock and hypothermic after their ordeal.
The Department of Communications and Marine said a full investigation of what happened is being undertaken by an inspector from its recently established Marine Casualty Board.
Beginning next year, fishing boats for hire will need a license and will be inspected by surveyors to ensure they meet safety regulations. Under the law at the moment, pleasure craft are required to have lifejackets and those under 16 are required to wear them.
Junior Marine Minister John Browne, who represents the area in the Dail, visited Fethard and described it as a “tremendous tragedy” for the families involved.
A Wexford priest, Fr. Joe McGrath, said it was a “terrible time for everybody concerned.” He said there was a “sense of disbelief” in the locality about what happened.
Tommy Roche, a trawlerman who was one of the first on the scene, said the boat had already sunk and he found bodies in the water and people shouting for help who were close to death.
“I’d say another two or three minutes and they would all have gone,” he said. “We just happened to be lucky that we steamed in the right way and got them. It was just luck. Out there you can go a long way in a fog and miss things.”