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Divers recover body in search for missing fisherman Willie Whelan


Willie Whelan

Willie Whelan

Willie Whelan

NAVAL Service divers have recovered a body as part of their operation to locate the remains of missing Wexford fisherman William 'Willie' Whelan (41) from the wreckage of the trawler Alize.

The body is being brought 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 dive operations on the wrecked 12 metre trawler lying on the seabed off the Wexford coast.

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

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

They are being assisted by members of the Garda Underwater Unit and experienced members of Wexford Sub Aqua Clubs with the Coast Guard providing support on site.

Divers are using the Irish Lights Vessel Granuaile as an operations platform with dives, to date, focused on clearing a path to the interior compartments of the wrecked trawler to allow the remains to be safely accessed and recovered.

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

Clearance dives continued until being suspended yesterday evening.

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

The Naval Service has assigned to 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 located in the sea and recovered a few hours after the sinking but died shortly after being airlifted to University Hospital Waterford (UHW).

The search operation had been hampered by weather conditions off the Wexford coast for the past 20 days.

Special remotely operated underwater vehicles had also been used by divers to scan the seabed in the area where the 12 metre trawler Alize foundered.

The search operation had also been supported by the Waterford-based Coast Guard helicopter and the Air Corps CASA marine surveillance aircraft.

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

A massive air and sea rescue operation was launched and Mr Sinnott was recovered from the sea.

Tragically the father of four died in UHW shortly after being airlifted there.

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, Willie Whelan.

Mr Whelan, who is from Fethard-on-Sea, only got married five months ago.

Both men were vastly experienced fishermen and great friends.

They were scallop fishing on the 12 metre trawler when it suddenly sank off Hook Head.

Online Editors