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Fishermen feared drowned as boat debris is spotted

HOPES were fading today for two young Dublin fishermen missing at sea. Recently-married Ronan Brown (25) from Skerries and his friend David Gilson (35), from Rush, failed to return after setting out to go lobster fishing yesterday morning.

As distraught family members and friends gathered at Skerries Harbour, searchers confirmed that some debris had been recovered from the sea. A Coast Guard spokesman said that a number of items, which are believed to belong to the missing men, were found during the initial search.

Members of the men’s families, supported by their local communities, gathered at the RNLI lifeboat station in Skerries from early morning. They embraced each other as parties left to continue the search at 7am around the bay of the popular city suburb. Ronan Brown married Liz just six months ago.

Ronan and David Gilson left port at 11am yesterday to fish for lobsters in an 18ft dory off the port of Skerries.

Debris believed to be from the boat was discovered by search teams yesterday evening.

Met Eireann reported dangerous conditions in the Irish Sea off the north Co Dublin coast last night, with winds of up to 60kph and gale-force gusts of up to 88kph.

They also had a small craft warning in operation. The sea at this time of year is still extremely cold, at only 7-8C.

Fears are now growing that the boat was caught up in high winds and rough seas and sank.

The families of the two men were being comforted by members of the local RNLI lifeboat station, relatives and friends, as they waited for news of their loved ones.

A Coast Guard S-61 helicopter, lifeboats and search crews began searching at first light.

RNLI spokeswoman Mary Courtney said it was impossible to say for definite if the debris recovered last night was from the boat.

"There were no identifiable marks on it (the debris) whatsoever," she said.

"The garda helicopter has been deployed this morning along with a number of RNLI lifeboats from Clogherhead and Howth.

"A good amount of fishermen and local people with boats have turned up to volunteer too.

"Both their families have been here since early morning."

One local fisherman described both men as "decent young lads, well-known and respected".

He said Mr Brown, who got married last October, was a deep-sea mechanic.

"He has been fishing in Loughshinny since he was a kid. David is also a lifelong fisherman. They wouldn't have taken unnecessary risks.

"They are inshore fishermen and wouldn't have been out too far, so something must have happened to the boat."

Mr Brown is understood to be married with young children.

Locals told the Herald that Ronan suffered serious head injuries in a car accident but had made a full recovery.

"Ronan was in a car crash a few years ago. He was brain-damaged but recovered brilliantly," one local said.





Helicopter

Both men are understood to have been involved in the Skerries Rugby Football Club and have played in the area since they were children.

"They were two local lads. They used to play rugby in Skerries. It's so sad for their families," another local said.

A large-scale search was initiated yesterday when the two men failed to return from a fishing trip. Their vessel was last seen afloat by a fellow fisherman at around 11am yesterday.

The Dublin Coast Guard's Sikorsky S-61 helicopter used its Nitesun searchlight in the dark and infrared camera FLIR equipment was used to pick up body heat in the search.

The debris was found half way between the Rockabill lighthouse and St Patrick's Island off the Skerries shore. Three lifeboats from Skerries, Howth and Clogherhead are also involved in the search.

hnews@herald.ie


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