Sunday 21 October 2018

Tragedy at sea: Pere Charles was 'one of the finest in the fleet'

RNLI crewman David Murphy arrives back at Dunmore East harbour last night with the survival kit from the 'Pere Charles'
RNLI crewman David Murphy arrives back at Dunmore East harbour last night with the survival kit from the 'Pere Charles'
A fishing vessel taking part in the search for missing fishermen off Dunmore East in Co Waterford yesterday afternoon battles the stormy seas
The 'Pere Charles' was brought to Ireland as part of the Dublin coastal fishing fleet

THE Pere Charles was one of the largest and most efficient vessels operating from Dunmore East port. It had only undergone a major refit last year.

THE Pere Charles was one of the largest and most efficient vessels operating from Dunmore East port.

It had only undergone a major refit last year.

And the mystery over why she sank so fast taking all five of her crewmen with her was only deepened yesterday by the confirmation she passed her safety inspection with flying colours in 2006.

The trawler - which now probably rests on the seabed in some 100 feet of water - was built in France in 1982 and was 19.8 metres in length.

She was originally brought to Ireland to operate as part of the Dublin coastal fishing fleet.

The Pere Charles was capable of fishing for a wide variety of species - but was particularly effective at fishing for herring - her catch when she sank.

The vessel boasted an enclosed cabin and operating area which allowed crewmen to avoid the worst elements of the weather, unlike fishermen operating from smaller vessels.

In January 2006, the trawler was purchased by Michael Walsh who operates from Dunmore East.

Mr Walsh is one of the most respected fishermen in the south-east and in recent years has acted as spokesman for the Irish South and East Fishermen's Organisation.

He ordered the refurbishment of the vessel immediately after he purchased it - and the vessel operated without incident from Dunmore East after she passed her rigorous safety inspection.

Locals in Dunmore East yesterday confirmed the Pere Charles was widely considered one of the finest trawlers operating in the local fleet.

Mr Walsh met with gardai and rescue officials at the RNLI search centre yesterday to brief them on the vessel and its precise safety features.

The Pere Charles was given a modern safety suite only last year.

But despite having sophisticated VHF systems, no mayday alert was issued before the boat disappeared in storm-force weather conditions as it battled heavy seas to return to harbour.

The trawler similarly had ocean-standard liferafts - but the crew were apparently unable to access these in time.

One liferaft was discovered washed close to the shore at Kilmore Quay in Wexford shortly before lunchtime yesterday.

Irish Coastguard officials recovered the liferaft and it was brought to Dunmore East last night as part of the search operation.

The Pere Charles vanished when she was just 300 metres from a sister trawler, the Susanna G.

The Pere Charles is understood to have received two radio calls in the minutes before she sank.

Mr Walsh contacted the trawler 10 minutes before she disappeared - while the Susanna G made contact with her an estimated four minutes before she sank.

The sinking was so fast that crewmen on the Susanna G were stunned - rescue officials were told that one minute the lights of the Pere Charles were visible and the next there was only darkness.

Politicians fall silent as hopes fade for seamen
Miracle amid tears
Victims 'gone in the space of two phone calls'
All I can think of is the lads. I'm here and they're gone...
'He was the real thing - a wonderful charming person'
How the tragic events unfolded
Pat was third member of his family to drown while fishing
Andriy came here 'to become better seaman'
Loving grandad first went to sea as a teenager
Two rescued, two missing after second trawler sinking
Tomaisin lived for his two beautiful daughters
Five new names for wall memorial
Stricken vessel was towed to safety twice

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News