Friday 24 November 2017

Navy hopes better weather tomorrow will allow examination of Cork trawler wreck

Kevin Kershaw's mother, Margaret (centre), is consoled in Union Hall yesterday. Also in the photo is Kevin's younger brother Pauraic (far left)
Kevin Kershaw's father Paddy
Tom Hayes, who is the brother of missing skipper Michael Hayes
Trawlers continuing the search on the shoreline at Union Hall in west Cork
Survivor Abdou Mohamad at Union Hall

Ralph Riegel and reporters

THE NAVAL Service has said it hopes that better weather conditions tomorrow will allow divers to safely examine the wreck of Tit Bonhomme.

The trawler sank in heavy seas off the Co Cork coast early on Sunday morning and five fishermen remain missing.

Poor conditions sea conditions have again hindered divers from approaching the vessel on the seabed at Adam's island in Glandore Bay.

The navy said that diving in the current conditions was an "unacceptable risk to life".

Lieutenant Conor Kirwan said: "Conditions in the immediate vicinity of the vessel remain particularly treacherous, only the Naval and Garda Dive Teams with their extensive support should dive the Tit Bonhomme.

Earlier today, as the search resumed, families of the missing maintained a heartbreaking vigil on the pier at Union Hall.

The Naval Service was hoping that conditions would allow them to search the submerged wreck of the ‘Tit Bonhomme’ in a bid to find bodies.

In a statement, the Naval Service said it is deeply conscious of the families and friends of the missing men and the wider fishing community and will begin diving on the wreck as soon as safe diving conditions prevail.

Seventeen local fishing boats, along with the Baltimore and Courtmacsherry lifeboats, the Irish Coastguard helicopters, gardaí and around 100 civil defence and coastguard volunteers again took part in the search today.

Margaret and Paddy Kershaw, parents of the youngest victim Kevin (21) were among the family members waiting for news.

It emerged that FAS trainee Kevin, originally from Tallaght, Dublin had only decided to go fishing in a bid to raise money to travel to Australia.

Kevin, who had been staying with relatives in Clonakilty had expressed interest in a career as a fisherman and was on his first ever trip.

Also missing are skipper and father-of-five, Michael Hayes (52), Wael Mohamad (32), Saied aly Eldin (24) and Shaban Attia (26).

Difficult sea conditions meant Navy and garda divers couldn't operate on the wreck yesterday.

The only survivor of Sunday's tragedy -- Abdou Mohamad (40) -- revealed the dramatic last moments of the doomed trawler last Sunday morning.

"We hit the rocks -- the skipper (Mr Hayes) told us to get to the lifeboats. Some of us were on top, some of us were below," Mr Mohamad told his friend, Nezer Arafa.

"But a wave smashed the glass and water flooded into the boat. The skipper said to open the door to relieve the pressure and I was swept out. I lost my lifejacket but I managed to retrieve it and to swim to (Adam Island's) shore," he said.

Mr Mohamad paid an emotional visit to the Union Hall pier at 11.45am to express his condolences to the families of the missing crewmen and to thank rescuers.

Mr Mohamad -- whose younger brother, Wael (32), a father of two, is one of those missing -- wept as he limped up the pier to meet rescue officials and relatives. His face was bruised and his arm was in a sling.

Yesterday, Paddy Kershaw said he had met Mr Mohamad -- and stressed all the five families were trying to support each other and help the search effort.

"He (the survivor) was my first port of call -- I called to him first. Yes, (it was emotional)," he said.

Mr Kershaw, who had travelled down to Union Hall from Dublin, said his son had gone to sea because he was a proud young man who did not want to spend his future on the dole.

"My son was a diamond -- he was a lovely young fella. He was an asset to the community and he shone like a bright light. Everyone who knew him loved him. He had that special shine about him," he said.

Kevin's mother, Margaret, vowed she would not give up hope.

"My son was a happy-go-lucky kind of lad. But I am not giving up hope -- I am hoping and praying that he can still be found safe," she said. Mr Kershaw revealed that the last contact he had with his son was a text message from him on Friday asking him to ring him.

"There wasn't anything wrong -- I think he was just excited and wanted to tell me about the fishing."

Kevin was one of six children the youngest of whom is eight -- and two of his younger brothers, Ciaran and Trevor, yesterday took part in the search operation.

"It is hard to understand -- I was leaning on the optimistic side. I was asking myself was I preparing for a funeral or is there still a chance of his recovery," Mr Kershaw said.

"I feel for the other families -- they were all connected with this community even though some of them were from a foreign land. But I feel for them all."

Mr Kershaw said his family had been taken aback by the huge support for the search operation -- and the way in which Union Hall locals had tried to support them through offers of food, shelter and transport.

"Everyone down here has been fantastic -- it is a small, tight-knit community and all I can say is that they are wonderful people."

Mr Kershaw spent the entire day out searching for the missing five crewmen on board the trawler, 'Stelimar'.

Other relatives to join in the search operation were Mr Hayes's wife, Kathleen, and his brother, Tom, who spent the day searching on the trawler 'Brian Eoin'.

Saied aly Eldin's father, Mohammed Ibrahim, spent the day searching with Egyptian friends of the Mohamad and Attia families on the trawler 'Ocean Pioneer'.

Irish Independent

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