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Anguish for victims' families as sea refuses to give up its dead

"THE sky has opened, the sky has opened." Egyptian fisherman Mohammed Ibrahim Eldin fell to his knees sobbing, threw his head back and held his hands up to the sky, shouting in anguish.

His Egyptian friends raced to console the devastated father as every eye on Union Hall pier in west Cork turned to the heartbreaking scene unfolding before them.

Mohammed had spent all of the previous day helping to search for the bodies of the five missing crew of the 'Tit Bonhomme' -- his beloved son Saied (24) among them.

Mr Eldin -- a fisherman all his life -- knew all too well the dangers of the sea. But his composure shattered yesterday as the enormity of his loss suddenly struck home.

His heartbroken call in Arabic simply echoed the pain being felt by the families and friends of the five missing crewman all gathered along the freezing, mist-shrouded pier for a third day.

They came to Union Hall to hope against hope for the miraculous recovery of their loved ones. Now, their prayers are simply for the recovery of their bodies.

Mr Eldin eventually had to be carried away by eight friends. He was later taken to be checked by paramedics but, after recovering, determinedly returned to the pier to continue his lonely vigil.

Yesterday, members of Ireland's Egyptian community, led by cleric Aymen Essa, staged a special prayer service at 11am while the Bishop of Cork & Ross, Dr John Buckley, led another prayer service at 5pm.

The wife and daughter of missing skipper Michael Hayes (52) yesterday stared in anguish at the site of the shipwreck.

Kathleen and Dervla Hayes were joined by family members as they made the trip to the wreck of the 'Tit Bonhomme'.

Conditions were rough and winds battered the 'L'ours Des Mers' trawler as it made the 30 minute trip into the bay at 3.30pm.

There were emotional scenes on the deck of the vessel as the family members, some in tears, embraced each other.

Dozens of relatives of Kevin Kershaw (21) -- the 'Tit Bonhomme's youngest crew member -- gathered on the pier, vainly waiting for news of Navy and garda divers being able to operate on the wreck.

Kevin's mother, Margaret, also went to sea and was she hugged by friends as she returned to the pier only to break down sobbing as she climbed off the trawler.

Irish Independent