Three brothers dead after fishing punt capsizes in Tramore Bay
Three brothers who drowned when their fishing vessel overturned at sea were decent men trying to earn a living, it was said tonight.
The tragedy unfolded off the south west coast of Ireland when their 18 foot punt type boat did not return to a Co Waterford harbour.
The three have been named locally as Paul, Shane and Kenny Bolger, who were all aged in their 40s and originally from Passage East in the county.
It is understood both Paul and Shane were married with children.
Sinn Fein Councillor Pat Fitzgerald, whose wife is a cousin of the men, said all three were experienced sea-goers who had fished since they were young boys.
"We would have known and grown up with them," he said.
"They were good, nice, hard-working lads. Decent lads. Well liked popular people.
"They will be sorely missed.
"They always worked and tried to make a living for themselves."
The alarm was raised around 5.30pm when the 18 foot vessel, which had left before 9am to haul lobster pots, did not return to Dunmore East.
It had last been seen at midday about half a mile south of Brownstown Head, between Tramore Bay and Dunmore East.
The Irish Coast Guard said weather conditions deteriorated during the day with west to south west force four winds recorded during the recovery operation.
The Waterford-based Coast Guard helicopter, Dunmore East Lifeboat and Tramore Lifeboat were immediately sent to the scene and en-route to Brownstown Head, the helicopter spotted the stricken, semi-submerged vessel in the water.
The helicopter crew found the first man's body a short time later, with Dunmore East RNLI recovering the other two men.
All three were later pronounced dead, gardai confirmed.
Mr Fitzgerald said it is a mystery as to what happened to the brothers at sea.
"They have been fishing since they were small boys," he said.
"They would have been in boats and around boats since they were children. They have fished on the trawlers and were experienced fishermen."
The drownings have numbed the local communities, which have suffered several fishing tragedies in recent years.
Five men were lost at sea when the Pere Charles trawler sank off the south east coast in January 2007 in stormy weather.
Skipper Tom Hennessy, 32, his uncle Pat Hennessy, 48, Billy O'Connor, 50, Pat Coady, 27, and 32-year-old Andriy Dyrin from the Ukraine died when the trawler went down two miles from Hook Head. Their bodies were never recovered.
Six years to the day fisherman Johnny Flynn, 43, from Dunmore East, died after his boat capsized off Brownstown.
And the body of father-of-four John Ennis from Ballyhack, Co Wexford, was recovered more than a month after he went missing at sea in February 2011.
Mr Fitzgerald thanked rescue teams for recovering the men, but criticised the amount of Government support for cash-strapped fishermen.
He claimed fishermen are on the poverty line and are being forced to risk their lives by going to sea to work in dangerous conditions.
The Bolgers would have traditionally been fishing for salmon in the safety of an estuary at this time of year, he said.
"Fishermen have been discriminated against, victimised, marginalised and treated like second hand citizens," he added.
"The situation is intolerable. There is no industry, no compensation and people are forced into situations.
"Poverty is driving these people to go out and make a living and this is what's happening."