RELATIVES of five fishermen who died in the Tit Bonhomme trawler sinking wept as the doomed crew's desperate pleas for help were revealed in two heartbreaking 999 emergency calls.
The calls, made in the minutes after the trawler struck rocks on Adam Island at the entrance to Glandore Bay in west Cork, revealed the crew's increasingly desperate calls for a rescue helicopter as huge waves dragged the trawler off the rocks and began to rip it apart.
The first rescue unit was at the scene 53 minutes after the first call was logged.
The revelations came at a coroner's inquest opened into the sinking of the Tit Bonhomme on January 15 last year.
Only one crewman survived, Egyptian Abdou Mohamad (41).
The five fishermen who died were skipper Michael Hayes (52), Kevin Kershaw (21) and three Egyptian fishermen, Wael Mohamad (32), Shaban Attia (26) and Saied aly Eldin (24).
Mr Kershaw was on his first fishing expedition.
Two 999 calls were made at 5.46am and 5.49am on Mr Kershaw's mobile phone.
West Cork coroner Frank O'Connell heard that Mr Mohamad spent three hours swimming to safety. When found by Coastguard volunteer Lee Miles, the exhausted fisherman told his rescuer: "Let me die, just let me die."
The coroner said it was "vitally important" to determine who was in control of the trawler at the time of impact.
Mr Mohamad, Wael Mohamad, Shaban Attia and Kevin Kershaw were in their bunks and were woken by the impact. Mr Mohamad said he had no idea precisely where Mr Hayes and Mr Eldin were. Mr Mohamad said he would have died but for grabbing a lifejacket as he was swept under a wave.
The six crew gathered in the wheelhouse as the raging sea began to tear the boat apart.
"There were huge waves and there was water in the wheelhouse," he said.
Such was the violence of the waves that the crew could not access the lifeboats and were unable to put on immersion life-saving suits. "The sea started hitting us . . . destroying everything. Everybody started shouting to open the door. I opened it and the sea washed me out," said Mr Mohamad.
A 14-month Marine Casualty Investigation Board report into the tragedy said it was most likely caused by a number of factors including crew fatigue and navigational issues. The inquest continues today.