Belfast Telegraph

Search resumes for missing fisherman Willie Whelan after trawler sinking

Fishing vessels taking part in the search for the missing fisherman
Fishing vessels taking part in the search for the missing fisherman

By Conor Feehan

A search is due to resume at first light this morning for a Wexford man who has been missing since the trawler he was fishing on sank late on Saturday night.

Willie Whelan, who is in his 40s, was fishing off Hook Head, a headland in Co Wexford, with another man, Joe Sinnott (65), who was winched from the sea and rushed to hospital but who died later.

The tragedy has hit the close-knit communities of Kilmore Quay, Dunmore East and the surrounding villages and townlands.

A massive search operation began when the emergency radio beacon from the 12-metre fishing boat Alize automatically alerted Coast Guard personnel at around 10.30pm on Saturday.

This beacon operates when it is submerged in water, and could indicate that the boat sank quickly, giving the two man crew no time to radio for assistance.

They had been fishing for scallops six miles south of Hook Head.

Mr Sinnott, a father-of-four and grandfather-of-nine, was from the Seaview area of Kilmore Quay. Neighbours and friends yesterday gathered at the house he shared with his wife Mary to comfort her and the Sinnott family on their loss.

Mr Sinnott's son, Michael, said: "We really don't know what happened. It's too early to tell. The first we knew was around 11pm after the signal from the boat was received by the Coast Guard in Dublin who then in turn contacted the owner.

"It's hard to believe. He was so many years at sea, and the man who was with him too, so whatever happened wasn't down to a lack of experience.

"He was a hard worker. They were scallop fishing which would have been a 24-hour trip with a two-man crew. The boat was in good condition."

After being taken from the sea Mr Sinnott was transferred to University Hospital in Waterford but later died. His funeral will take place on Wednesday.

The family of Mr Whelan was also being comforted by friends as they await news.

Wexford Fianna Fail councillor Michael Whelan said Mr Whelan had only married five months ago.

"The family is distraught," he said. "I spoke with his father at Hook Head and he said he saw him out fishing and had expected him to be back in just an hour and a half.

"The family is just holding out hope for a rescue or recovery."

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