Monday 19 February 2018

Major search operation underway for three elderly sailors

Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

A major search operation is underway off the west Cork coast for a yacht with three elderly sailors which was reported overdue.

The search operation is being led by the Irish Coastguard’s Shannon-based Sikorsky helicopter, Rescue 115, as well as a number of RNLI craft.

These include the Baltimore all-weather lifeboat and the inshore search vessel as well as community rescue boats from Schull and Goleen.

The search is being co-ordinated through the Irish Coastguard’s Valentia operations centre.

Fishing vessels and other yachts in the west Cork area have also joined the search for the missing yacht.

Weather conditions off west Cork have been described as ideal with calm seas and good visibility.

The yacht was equipped with full safety equipment as well as an inflatable dinghy.

Rescue officials said there was no sign of an emergency flare being fired or a radio distress signal being issued.

The seven metre (21ft) yacht was cruising off Baltimore and Schull over the past week and was due in port at 8pm.

The alarm was raised when the three sailors, two men and a woman, all aged in their late 60s and early 70s, failed to arrive in port as planned for a dinner.

All three are understood to be from the UK and were holidaying in west Cork where the regatta season is now in full swing.

The search operation continued into darkness tonight with the Sikorskey conducting sweeps of isolated coves and inlets using its infra-red cameras.

The search has been focussed on the Roaringwater Bay area.

Search officials said concern mounted for the three elderly sailors after a three hour search operation failed to locate their yacht.

However, rescuers said the possibility could not be discounted that the yacht had simply berthed in an isolated area with the sailors deciding to suspend their onward journey until morning.

All efforts to contact the vessel via marine VHF radio tonight have failed.

Coincidentally, the search began as the RNLI and Irish Coastguard were also searching for an open vessel with four people on board which was reported overdue at Schull.

That craft, which had dropped two people off before continuing on its journey, ran late and the alarm was raised.

Two of those on board were children.

However, the vessel was located before 10pm with all four occupants safe and well.

They were totally unaware that a search operation was underway for their vessel.

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