Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Cork trawler tragedy: 'We lost the people -- we don't want to lose the bodies as well'

Trawlers and small boats search the shoreline at Union Hall in West Cork as the search continues for five people who went missing after the Tit Bonhomme trawler struck rocks at the mouth of the harbour in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Rescue personnel on the pier at Union Hall in west Cork, after five people went missing after the Tit Bonhomme trawler struck rocks at the mouth of the harbour in the early hours of this morning.

As he limped up the Union Hall pier, Abdou Mohamad's face was a picture of pure misery.

Tears streamed down the cheeks of the father-of-three as he shuffled painfully towards the Irish Coastguard command centre, supported by two Egyptian fisherman friends.

The 40-year old's left eye was swollen and there were bruises on his face. His arm was in a sling and every movement seemed to cause him pain.

But a friend of Mr Mohamad said he had been determined to go straight to Union Hall from Cork University Hospital to show solidarity with the families of his five missing crew mates from the 'Tit Bonhomme' and to say a personal 'thank you' to the search volunteers.

Mr Mohamad simply stared and shook his head when asked if he wanted to comment on the tragedy. His brother Wael (32) is one of those now missing and feared drowned. Wael -- a father-of-two -- celebrated the birth of his baby son just last month.

The other two missing Egyptians -- Shaban Attia (26) and Saied aly Eldin (24) -- were good friends of both Mohamad brothers and all lived together in Skibbereen. All came from the village of Roseta, just outside the port of Alexandria.

Mr Mohamad spent two hours in the Irish Coastguard command centre where he offered whatever assistance he could to search officials.

"The poor guy was in an awful state. I don't think it has sunk in what has happened and that he is the only one to be rescued," one search official said.

Ireland's small Egyptian community -- most of them fishermen who are based around fishing ports such as Castletownbere, Union Hall and Baltimore -- are very tight-knit. Yesterday, more than 30 Egyptian fishermen arrived in Union Hall from all over Ireland to offer their services to the search operation.

Mohammed Ibrahim Eldin -- whose son Saied (24) is missing -- shook his head and grimaced when asked if there was any sign of the five fishermen.

"Insha'Allah", he said, when asked about the recovery operation which he had taken part in --an Arabic phrase that had a ready meaning in an Irish fishing community -- 'God willing'.

Relatives of the other missing Egyptians are flying into Ireland from Cairo and are being supported by the Egyptian Embassy.

Garda liaison office Nezar Arafa, a friend of the missing men, said an Egyptian diver had offered to dive in an attempt to locate the bodies.

"He told me they couldn't let him dive. If they don't pick them up in a few days' time, the fish will eat them. We lost the people, we don't want to lose the bodies as well," he said.

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