Belfast Telegraph

Cork trawler tragedy: Families devastated as divers fail to find bodies inside wreck

By Ralph Riegel and Luke Byrne

The families of five missing fishermen were devastated last night to learn that naval service and garda divers had found no trace so far of bodies on the wrecked trawler, 'Tit Bonhomme'.

However, divers will only be able to definitively rule out any bodies being trapped inside the hull when they complete an interior search today using a special remotely operated vehicle (ROV).

The ROV -- which has powerful lights and cameras -- will be able to access parts of the hull that are inaccessible to divers.

Improved weather conditions off west Cork enabled navy and garda dive teams to operate on the wreck yesterday for the first time since it sank at 5.50am on Sunday.

A succession of dives took place on the wreck off Adam Island at the entrance to Glandore Bay throughout the day.

The Irish Coast Guard said divers were boosted by excellent visibility in the water -- though they endured difficult conditions because of strong currents and swirling debris.

But officials were last night urging the families not to attach too much hope to the dive operation amid mounting fears that no bodies would be found.

The missing crewmen include skipper and father of five Michael Hayes (52), Kevin Kershaw (21) and Egyptians Wael Mohamad (32), Saied aly Eldin (24) and Shaban Attia (26).

The divers raced to make the most of calm weather yesterday, working into the darkness, as storms were expected today.

Mr Kershaw's father Paddy, who was convinced that some of the bodies were in the wreck, admitted it was a difficult day but stressed that the families hadn't given up hope.

"This kind of tragedy cuts across all bounds -- religion, race and creed mean nothing here. We are all just human beings hoping and praying to get bodies of loved ones back for burial," he said.

Mr Kershaw's mother Margaret paid an emotional tribute to the courage and skill of the rescue services.

"I can't say enough about them -- they are out there giving their time and risking their lives just to bring them (the missing crew) back. They are all heroes," she said.

Mr Kershaw's relatives -- led by his siblings Abigail and Pauric, parents, aunts and cousins -- created a small candlelit shrine on Union Hall pier in memory of the missing men.

A simple memorial plaque read: "May God send ye all home safe -- from us all."

A prayer service was then held on the pier at 5.30pm.

"We are hoping and praying. But we are also aware that there may be a difficult road ahead for the families, so we are doing all we can to help and support them," said Fr Pierce Cormac.

The only survivor, Abdou Mohamad (40), whose younger brother Wael is among the missing, was said by friends to be "traumatised".

Support teams are set to visit the local school, where youngsters -- many children of fishermen -- have become distressed in the wake of the search.

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