THE uncle of the tragic Bolger brothers raised the alarm when he returned from a fishing trip and the men were not there to greet him, it has been revealed.
Joe Whitty, uncle of Paul, Shane and Kenny Bolger, has spoken about his family's distress at the loss of their relatives in Ireland's latest sea tragedy.
Joe, speaking at the Bolger family home on Blynd Quay, overlooking the picturesque harbour at Passage East, was still in shock.
"The family just can't believe they're gone. I don't believe they will until the funeral arrangements are made," said Joe.
"The thing about it is, even though they were married and living separately in different houses, they always came here.
"They'd work on the fishing gear here, they'd go into their mother's for their dinner, breakfast or whatever. It was always the main home."
The brothers set off on Tuesday from Dunmore East to tend their lobster pots off Brownstown Head.
Joe Whitty also went to sea and had planned to go on a longer trip, but on his return his nephews were not home.
"When I got in a young lad said to me the lads were not in. I thought that was strange but thought they might be in coves.
"They weren't there so I went down shore for about 20 minutes to Ballymacaw Bay. There was no sign of them and the weather was getting bad.
"I rang the coxswain in the lifeboat and he said that we should do a search around."
The lifeboat crew set off and the Waterford Search and Coastguard helicopter, Rescue 117, flew overhead and began their search pattern.
Within minutes the rescuers had found the brothers, but it was too late.
The remains of their 19-foot Dean Leanne was barely floating within sight of the bodies, still in their inflated life-jackets.
Rescue 117 winched one of the men on board and rushed to Waterford to try and find signs of life. The other two were taken on board the lifeboat, but there was nothing they could do.
Now Joe and his family must face in to the loss and the heartbreak of the funeral.
"I don't know what's happening now.
"They'll probably be waked in the community centre here, on the one night anyway.
"I'd say probably Friday and Saturday. Whatever will happen after that then.
"Paul will probably be buried in his own place, on his wife's side, and the two lads then will probably be buried in the mother's place in Crook," he said.