'His spirit is out there - please God he will help bring Willie home' - son of fisherman who died in Wexford tragedy tells funeral
MOURNERS were assured by the son of a fisherman who died in a tragedy off the Wexford coast that his spirit was now assisting search teams as they work to locate the remains of his missing friend.
Michael Sinnott fought back tears as he said the spirit of his late father Joseph 'Joe' Sinnott (65) was now at sea helping and guiding teams from the Coast Guard, Naval Service and RNLI as they search for his missing friend, William 'Willie' Whelan (41).
Mr Whelan is missing and feared drowned after the trawler Alize sank on Saturday evening off the south east coast - with Mr Sinnott being rescued from the sea but dying shortly afterwards.
Hundreds attended the Requiem Mass of Joe Sinnott in Kilmore, Co Wexford as his family asked mourners to pray for the recovery of his missing friend.
Search aircraft including the Air Corps CASA marine surveillance plane and the Waterford-based Coast Guard helicopter were operating offshore in the ongoing search for Mr Whelan as the funeral service took place.
"It has been a tough, tough few days," Michael Sinnott told the packed church.
"It has been hard - but I know where he (Dad) is. He is out there (at sea) with the boys searching. His spirit is out there - please God he will help bring Willie home to us."
"The bond that the two boys had was unreal - it was like a linked chain that you could not part."
Mr Sinnott's nephew, Sean, said his uncle loved being at sea - whether it was fishing or working for Irish Ferries on their service from Rosslare.
"Joe was our gentle giant - he was completely devoted to Mary, Siobhan, Bernie and Bridget (and Michael). In Joe, Michael not only had a fantastic Dad but a best friend and was almost like a brother."
"Joe died doing something that he absolutely loved. I think the only place that he wanted to be - other than at home with Mary - was out at sea."
Fr David Murphy told mourners that Joe Sinnott was: "Born to fish - and he died fishing."
He said Mr Sinnott was renowned for his warm smile, his gentle manner and the kindness he showed in helping mentor young fishermen in the skills of the profession.
The esteem in which he was held was reflected by the huge turnout at his funeral arrangements over the past three days.
Mrs Sinnott entered St Mary's Church carrying a framed photograph of her husband.
To honour the emergency services and, in particular the RNLI, the lifeboat anthem "Home from the Sea' was played during the Requiem Mass.
Mr Whelan, who is from Fethard-on-Sea, only got married five months ago.
Mr Sinnott and Mr Whelan, both vastly experienced fishermen, were scallop fishing on the 12 metre trawler Alize when it suddenly sank off some 8km off Hook Head on Saturday evening.
It is unclear what caused the sinking which 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 but tragically died in University Hospital Waterford (UHW) shortly after being airlifted there.
A four day search operation for Mr Whelan has been hampered by challenging weather conditions off the Wexford coast.
Sea swells of up to six metres were encountered at one point in the search campaign.
Now, the search operation is being co-ordinated from the Naval Service
patrol ship LE Samuel Beckett.
It is being supported by the RNLI, Coast Guard and a number of fishing vessels.
It is hoped that weather conditions will ease sufficiently to allow Naval Service divers conduct an assessment of the suspected Alize wreck site.
Navy divers are also supported by remotely-operated underwater vehicles which can be deployed to conduct an inspection of the trawler and seabed nearby.
The Sinnott family said it was now their heartfelt prayer that Mr Whelan is successfully located and recovered.
Members of both families supported each other before the Requiem Mass at St Mary's Church in Kilmore - with hundreds attending from the tight-knit fishing communities of Kilmore Quay, Dunmore East, Rosslare, Fethard and Passage East.
There was also a large representation from Ireland's fishing industry and emergency services.
The mourners were led by Mr Sinnott's wife, Mary, his children Michael, Síobhan, Bernie and Bridget as well as his siblings.
At the request of the Sinnott family, mourners were asked not to bring
flowers but, instead, to make a donation to the RNLI.