Tuesday 12 December 2017

'Miraculous' that nine family members stranded at sea survived incident which killed man (73)

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)

Adam Cullen and Denise Calnan

A senior member of the RNLI has described it as 'miraculous' that all 10 casualties who were stranded at sea for up to six hours were recovered at the weekend.

A 73-year-old man died in the incident which occurred when a boat capsized during a a family fishing trip in Wexford.

The incident saw 10 people stranded in freezing cold water for up to six hours.

Francis Smith (73) from Salisbury, England, lost his life half a mile from the Saltee Islands after a freak wave caused the 18ft vessel they were traveling in to capsize on Saturday afternoon.

The alarm was raised at 1.30pm after a concerned family member notified emergency services that the boat had failed to return.

"They set off from Kilmore Quay shortly after 2pm," said the RNLI's Aidan Bates.

"A family member tried calling eight of their mobiles and when they didn't ring she raised the alarm. Thankfully, they were all wearing lifejackets or the tragedy could be 10 times worse," he added.

The boat is believed to have overturned in a large swell after a breaking wave smashed the windows in the wheelhouse and swamped the vessel.

RNLI Divisional Operations Manager Owen Medland described it as 'miraculous' that all 10 casualties were recovered from the water.

"That stretch of coastline is a popular angling area," Mr Medland told RTE Radio One's Morning Ireland.

"It was a person known to the missing party that raised the alarm when they had not returned from their trip.

"The local lifeboating community conducted a search in the local area and it became clear that the missing party were still at sea.

"The RNLI and the Waterford Coastguard helicopter began the search at sea and started at the party's last known position.

"It was one of those miraculous moments when the Coastguard halted to adjust the search light and when he turned it back on, it was shining on the upturned vessel and the 10 people in the water," he continued.

"It was very difficult to determine how long the casualties were in the water for this one but there is one true point, they all had lifejackets on for the duration of the time they were in the water.

"To have all 10 casualties recovered is quite miraculous. It is a true testimony to the importance of wearing a lifejacket.

"The weather was entirely appropriate for undertaking that activity, but unfortunately the vessel did encounter some choppy conditions," he added.

Meanwhile, in Clare, divers taking part in the ongoing search for a missing Japanese couple found a body yesterday.

The remains were found in the water off the George's Head area at around 12pm.

The remains were removed to University Hospital Limerick where a post-mortem examination was later carried out.

Eiji Takagi (63) and Ushio Azaki (61) checked out of their hotel in Spanish Point on Saturday August 22.

Their rental car was found in a car park at George's Head later that night. The couple had been due to fly from Shannon to Toyko on Monday August 2 but failed to show up for their flight and a search operation began.

Irish Independent

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