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Monday 19 March 2018

Anguished cries echo across pier as bodies pulled from sea

Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

'We're not Irish or Egyptian here -- we are all just human beings trying to support each other '

PADDY Kershaw kissed the forehead of his dead son Kevin in fond farewell.

Twenty-one-year-old Kevin -- the youngest of the five crewmen missing from the 'Tit Bonhomme' wrecked last Sunday off west Cork -- was the second of two bodies successfully recovered by Naval Service and garda divers yesterday.

Paddy Kershaw -- a father of six -- said identifying his son's body in a tent on Union Hall pier, which served as a temporary morgue, was a nightmare.

"I am heartbroken -- absolutely heartbroken. But I am relieved that at least we got Kevin's body back so we can give him a decent burial. We are also thankful for the fact the body is in good condition," he said.

Paddy had to identify his son's remains at 1.20pm -- just 45 minutes after it was recovered from a deep rock pool just 25m from the trawler wreck.

Kevin died on his very first fishing expedition -- with his father hoping to talk him out of a plan to emigrate to Australia.

"Our thoughts and prayers are now with the families of the skipper (Michael Hayes) and the two Egyptian families (Saied aly Eldin and Wael Mohamad) that they get the bodies of their loved ones back," Paddy added.

Earlier, the anguished screams of Kevin's mother, Margaret Williamson, echoed across Union Hall pier when she was brought into the tent to view his remains.

Minutes later, the mother-of-six emerged sobbing and physically supported by her children and sisters.

Veteran Irish Coast Guard officials and gardai struggled to maintain their composure amid heartbreaking scenes as the Hayes and Egyptian families came over to Paddy and Margaret to console them as they prayed by the hearse carrying Kevin's coffin to Cork University Hospital (CUH).

Among those offering support was the wife of the missing trawler skipper, Kathleen Hayes.

The only survivor of the tragedy, Abdou Mohamad (40), whose younger brother Wael (32) is still missing, wept as he hugged first Paddy and then Margaret.

One Egyptian brought over a Scapular medal, which he hung around Paddy Kershaw's neck as a gesture of solidarity.

"We're not Irish or Egyptian here -- we are all just human beings trying to support each other," Paddy explained.

Kevin's body was found at 12.45pm -- less than three hours after the body of his crewmate, Shaban Attia (26), was discovered in a deep rock pool just 25m from the trawler wreck off Adam Island at the entrance to Glandore Bay.

Kevin's body was found in the same deep pool -- but repeated dives until darkness fell failed to locate the remaining three bodies.

Divers had focused on the rock pool because a significant amount of debris from the trawler had been spotted in the area.

The first body was recovered at 10am and was identified as that of Mr Attia. Mr Attia -- who was a cousin of the missing Mr Eldin (24) -- was identified by friends at 10.30am.

He was the only one of the five missing crewmen who did not have immediate family on Union Hall pier.

Tragically, his mother died only last week at her home in Borg Meghezel outside Alexandria.

As his hearse left the pier, more than 30 Egyptian friends gathered and staged a brief prayer service led by cleric Aymen Issa Rezk.

Morad Gharib, a cousin of the Mohamad brothers, said it was a very difficult time for everyone.

"Our hearts are all broken. But we are very thankful for the kindness of the Irish people and the people of west Cork," he said.

The body recoveries came as a huge search operation resumed at dawn yesterday for the fifth day for the missing five crewmen.

Navy and garda divers were yesterday able to operate on the 'Tit Bonhomme' wreck for the second day thanks to calm sea conditions and good visibility.

Dive operations will resume at first light today, though weather conditions are expected to deteriorate later.

Among those who visited Union Hall yesterday to support the families and rescue services was Marine Minister Simon Coveney and Naval Service Commander Mark Mellett.

Irish Independent

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