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Tuesday 25 July 2017

Relief as fisherman's body found

The recovery of a missing fisherman's body more than a month after he was lost at sea has brought bittersweet relief to his heartbroken family and friends, rescuers said.

Hundreds of residents, trawlermen, emergency services and lifeboat volunteers have searched for father-of-four John Ennis every day since he disappeared on February 18.

Crew on a car ferry from Ballyhack, Co Wexford - where Mr Ennis lived - and Passage East in Co Waterford spotted a body in the water at around 9am this morning.

Emergency services, who have had a base in the Suir estuary for the past four weeks to co-ordinate the massive operation, recovered the remains which were later identified as those of the missing 64-year-old.

The body was taken to Waterford Regional Hospital for a post-mortem examination.

Michael Hickey, of the Carrick-on-Suir River Rescue, said there was palpable relief across the close-knit fishing community that Mr Ennis could finally be given a proper burial.

"I would describe it as bittersweet," he said.

"It was a relief for the family and everyone involved, they are glad they can bury him."

Mr Hickey helped co-ordinate the huge sea and shoreline search, from Hook Head Lighthouse in Co Wexford to Cheekpoint in Co Waterford, along with the RNLI, Irish Coast Guard, the Naval Service and the Garda.

"This was a massive search. On weekends there was more than 400 people involved, walking the shores, out on the boats - all local people," he said.

"I've never seen a search like it. This was ordinary people, people who knew John from Passage West, Ballyhack, Duncannon and Arthurstown. Everybody was involved."

Mr Hickey also praised local businesses and organisations which provided food and shelter for people involved in the search.

Walter Foley, of the RNLI Fethard-on-Sea lifeboat station, said there was an overwhelming mix of sadness and relief at the shore when Mr Ennis's remains were identified.

"It was very stressful for the family and everybody else involved down on the harbour every day," he said.

"The scale of the effort here is almost unheard of."

A former builder and life-long fisherman, Mr Ennis was working on a boat, Na Buachailli, when it went down about 100m from the shore near Duncannon, Co Wexford last month.

The nine-metre vessel was fishing for mussels at the time, out of Ballyhack.

The boat's skipper managed to make it ashore as it sank.

Mr Ennis is survived by his wife Mai and his four daughters, Martina, Ann, Aisling and Paula.

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