Vigil for Irishman swept out to sea by huge wave
Published 12/09/2011 | 05:00
THE family of a young Irishman swept out to sea by a huge Hurricane Katia wave was last night holding a vigil as his body remained missing.
Keen amateur photographer Thomas Clarke (33), from Kilnaleck, Co Cavan, was attempting to take pictures of the massive waves at Monhegan Island in the US state of Maine, while sightseeing with friends before a wedding.
He was swept out to sea at around 1pm on Friday as he walked on rocks close to a cave near Norton Ledge on the Atlantic coast.
Mr Clarke was nearest the sea when a massive wave hit.
US coastguards reported that two men dived into the waters to try and save him but got into difficulties before swimming back to shore.
Mr Clarke's camera bag and shoes were recovered but not his body.
Family, friends and relations attended a late night vigil and Mass at St Patrick's Church in Kilnaleck.
Fr Micheal Quinn, parish priest in Kilnaleck, said: "It was organised by the community in an outpouring of sadness and grief to do something tangible as it is difficult for the family as of yet as his body has not been discovered. People are coming together in solidarity.
"The family is hopeful and prayerful that his body will be found. The desolation is still in their hearts but it would give them the opportunity to grieve if they had something tangible."
Two of Mr Clarke's brothers are believed to have flown out to Maine on Saturday. He is also being mourned by his parents Thomas and Maura and several other siblings.
Mr Clarke's friend was due to marry his bride on Monhegan Island on Saturday.
A woman who was with Mr Clarke's group at the time he was swept out to sea was so upset after the incident she had to be airlifted off the island by a coastguard helicopter.
The US coastguard searched for Mr Clarke for 30 hours before calling off the search around midday Irish time on Saturday.
They said there was a "negligible" chance he would have survived.
The Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed it was providing consular assistance to Mr Clarke's family.
Mr Clarke, who was a skilled builder, had returned to Ireland a few years ago and was believed to have bought a house in Kilnaleck. However, he returned to the US more than a year ago.