A cousin of the tragic Bolger brothers who drowned at sea has revealed the family’s heartache at their loss.
Brothers Paul (50), Kenny (47) and Shane Bolger (45), who were all from Passage East, Co Waterford, are survived by their elderly mother Margaret.
The three were on a fishing punt close to Brownstown Head in Tramore Bay when the 18ft craft overturned.
They were said to be wearing lifejackets at the time and it is likely they had been in the water some time before dying from hypothermia.
Today Michael Connors said the three were “the most experienced fishermen you could ever come across anywhere.”
“It’s like something like you wake up in the morning and think you’re after having a nightmare but unfortunately it’s not a nightmare.
“It’s a terrible, terrible, terrible tragedy,” he told RTE’s Morning Ireland.
He indicated fishermen were becoming increasingly hard-pressed in trying to make a living. He said: “I suppose fishermen are being pushed to the limit, pushed outside where they shouldn’t be.”
The region has been beset by fishing tragedies in recent years. He said: “You don’t get used to it. In the past five years there’s been some terrible, terrible tragedies.”
“Last night when the word came out, I got it at half-five, I refused to believe it until with was nearly on the news what was after happening. When I got up this morning at 6 o clock. The morning went on and it just got worse as the day went on. I know I’m speaking on behalf of all the people of Passage and Dunmore and Cheekpoint and Duncannon,.” he said.
The tight-knit coastal community has been left "devastated" at the loss of the three men, who were born and raised in the area.
Family and friends gathered in prayer at a "sombre" harbour in nearby Dunmore East last night where two of the bodies of the three men were brought ashore following a recovery operation. The body of the third man was recovered by the coastguard helicopter.
"This is a terrible tragedy," said local councillor John Carey. "We lived in the village all our lives together. They were full-time fishermen and were three gentlemen and very hard-working men."
Shane was a father of two boys, while his brother Paul had a daughter. They are all survived by their elderly mother, Margaret, and by two other brothers, Michael and Anthony, and by sisters Paula and Linda. Their father, Johnny, is deceased.
It is understood the three victims were working on lobster pots at the time of the tragedy, which happened some time in the afternoon or early evening.
They went out to sea from Dunmore East in their 18ft timber punt, Dean Leanne, which had an outboard engine, at about midday yesterday, and the alarm was raised in Dunmore when they did not return by early evening.
After the emergency call was made to the Coast Guard, the Tramore and Dunmore East lifeboats as well as the Coast Guard Search and Rescue helicopter based at Waterford Airport went to the scene, but the men were dead by the time they were recovered from the water.
Their bodies were spotted by the crew of the helicopter, who recovered the remains of one of the men, while the other two were brought to shore by the Dunmore East lifeboat.
The recovery mission took place in an area of water known as the Rinna Shark, about half a kilometre from the shore and visible from the eastern end of the beach in Tramore.
The area of sea is known for its difficult currents at times, and in the past few days the southwesterly winds have caused some swollen tides.
“There would be a fair swell there,” said a Coast Guard spokesman. “It’s very sad.”
The bodies of the three men were taken to Waterford Regional Hospital for postmortem examinations.
All three were last seen at midday around half-a-mile south of Brownstown Head, Co Waterford.
The Coast Guard helicopter and lifeboats based in Dunmore East and Tramore were immediately dispatched.
A capsized and semi-submerged vessel was spotted from the helicopter while it made its way to the scene.
The body of one of the men was also spotted from the air and was airlifted to Waterford Airport.
The bodies of the two other men were later pulled from the water by the lifeboats and taken to Dunmore East.
Mr Carey, who knew the three brothers “all my life”, said: “Everyone is really shocked and devastated at what has happened.”
“This is the worst tragedy ever to happen in our village for 40 years, when two lads drowned.
“Fishing is a hard life and I don’t think people appreciate what people have to do to earn a shilling.”
Mr Carey described the brothers as “three gentlemen” who fished all their lives and who would have been very experienced.
The latest drownings come less than six months after former RNLI crew member, John Flynn, from Dunmore East, died in a boating accident three kilometres off Brownstown Head.
Gardai in Tramore are investigating the cause of the tragedy, and an inquiry will also be mounted by the Marine Casualty Investigation Board.
A spokesperson for the Tramore Lifeboat said: “Our sympathies go to the families, obviously something went tragically wrong.”