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Naval Service divers recover body from wreckage of trawler

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Sea search: A fishing vessel taking part in the search for the missing fisherman off Hook Lighthouse in Co Wexford. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Sea search: A fishing vessel taking part in the search for the missing fisherman off Hook Lighthouse in Co Wexford. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Sea search: A fishing vessel taking part in the search for the missing fisherman off Hook Lighthouse in Co Wexford. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Naval Service divers have recovered a body during their operation to find the remains of missing Wexford fisherman William 'Willie' Whelan (41) from the wreckage of the trawler Alize.

The body was taken to the shore where it will be removed to hospital for a full identification by the State Pathologist Office.

A post-mortem examination will also be conducted.

The remains are believed to be those of the missing fisherman.

It followed several days of intensive diving operations on the wrecked 12-metre trawler lying on the seabed off the Wexford coast.

The operation was a hugely challenging task given the depth involved and the amount of debris scattered around the trawler.

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Willie Whelan’s remains are believed to have been found

Willie Whelan’s remains are believed to have been found

The operation was led by specialist Naval Service divers who staged numerous dives at the site yesterday.

They were assisted by members of the Garda Underwater Unit and experienced members of Wexford Sub Aqua Club, with the Coast Guard providing support.

Divers used the Irish Lights vessel Granuaile as an operations platform with dives focused on clearing a path to the interior compartments.

Once the body was secured from the seabed, it was transported to the ILV Granuaile for transfer to shore.

Recovery dives had been suspended on Thursday evening.

Further dives for the recovery of the body resumed at first light yesterday.

The Naval Service has assigned the LE James Joyce to support the recovery operation.

Mr Whelan and his friend, Joseph 'Joe' Sinnott (65), died when their trawler Alize foundered around 8km off Hook Head on January 4.

Mr Sinnott was found in the sea and recovered a few hours after the sinking, but died shortly after being airlifted to University Hospital Waterford (UHW).

The sinking of the Alize was detected when the trawler's Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) suddenly triggered.

A massive search and rescue operation was launched by the Coast Guard, RNLI and Naval Service with support from Wexford and Waterford-based fishing vessels.

Mr Sinnott's requiem Mass took place in Kilmore with his son Michael saying "the spirit" of his father was now trying to guide the recovery operation for his great friend Mr Whelan.

Mr Whelan had married only five months ago.

Irish Independent