Wednesday 23 January 2019

'They were in the water for hours' - two men dead and one hospitalised after boat capsized off Donegal coast

The three men had been fishing near Malin Head when the tragedy happened
Photo: Joe Boland
The three men had been fishing near Malin Head when the tragedy happened Photo: Joe Boland
(Stock image)

Conor McCrave, Stephen Maguire and David Fleming

A MAN in his 60s and a 16-year-old boy have died after their fishing boat capsized.

A third man, aged in his 50s who was part of the fishing group, was in a stable condition in hospital last night after he was rescued.

The three had set off from Malin Pier in Co Donegal around midday and were just minutes into their fishing trip, and less than a kilometre out to sea, when their 15ft boat capsized.

The older victim was last night named locally as Gerry Doherty from Carndonagh, Co Donegal. The teenage boy was today locally named as Thomas Weir, who was originally from Scotland but living in Derry.

Mr Weir is understood to be the son of Mr Doherty’s sister-in-law.

Speaking on RTE Radio One's Morning Ireland programme, RNLI spokesman Joe Joyce explained what they know so far about the tragedy.

"From what we can piece together this started off at around 9am yesterday morning when a party of three left the small pier at Malin Head, they were heading out fishing in a small vessel about 15ft long.

"At around about 12 o'clock they got in to some difficulty, the nature of which we not sure of but it resulted in their boat being swamped with water and it subsequently capsized and the three on-board ended up in the water," he said.

"They were in the water for a considerable amount of time, about three and a half/four hours before the alarm was raised."  

When visitors staying on holiday homes at the pier heard cries for help they immediately called the coastguard. The Marine Rescue Centre for the west of Ireland is based in the area and the officer in charge immediately went to the scene.  

When he saw a person in the water he launched all of the assets that were available to him, which included "two lifeboats from Buncrana, the coastguard vessel from Greencastle and the coastguard helicopter from Sligo."  

The also issued a call to fishing vessels in the area to come to their assistance.  

"A local fishing boat was coming along, and it found one of the people, a man in his late forties, clinging to a buoy in the water, he'd been there for a number of hours and he was taken ashore and handed over to the care of the ambulance service who were at the pier," Mr Joyce said.

"The rescue helicopter had arrived on scene about then too and they airlifted the young teenager to Altnagelvin hospital, it was only around about that stage that we discovered there was actually three people involved in the tragedy.

"The search then commenced at sea, the capsized boat was located, and the debris trail was followed, and the two lifeboats and a number of local vessels commenced a search of the area which lasted for about an hour and a half before some people on the shore discovered a body on rocky outcrop.

"The coastguard and members of the RNLI went to give assistance to the person that was washed up.

RNLI spokesman Joe Joyce said people in Malin Head are 'well used to tragedies'
Photo: Joe Boland
RNLI spokesman Joe Joyce said people in Malin Head are 'well used to tragedies' Photo: Joe Boland

"He was stretchered back to the road, a journey of about half a mile, where he was met by the local doctor. He was pronounced dead and the parish priest of Malin administered the last rites."  

His body was taken to Letterkenny University Hospital where a post mortem will take place.


Local councillor Albert Doherty knew Mr Doherty having spent a number of years at school with him in Carndonagh.

He said it was “tough news for the local area” to hear that he had passed away.

He paid tribute to him as a hard worker who had previously travelled to Australia and England for work.

The councillor also said Mr Doherty’s father had died in a drowning accident years ago.

The teenager was from Derry but had strong connections with the Inishowen area.

The man in his 50s was understood to be in a stable condition in hospital last night.

There is no indication yet as to what caused the boat to capsize and conditions on the day were good. 

"Conditions of that day were excellent, there was very good visibility, the water was flat there was no gale force warnings or small craft warnings in operation."

Mr Joyce said that the fishing community around Malin Head are "well used to tragedies" as "a number of people have been lost in that area over the years."

"It's a particularly treacherous bit of water, although conditions on the day were good the seas around Malin Head are some of the most treacherous in the world particularly at spring tide which is what we had the currents can run any way."

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