Fishing tragedy family 'grateful for all support'
THE family of three brothers who died in a fishing tragedy have paid an emotional tribute to the thousands of people who helped them endure "every family's worst nightmare."
Paul (49), Kenny (47) and Shane (44) Bolger died when their 6m punt capsized off the Waterford coast on June 11 while they were setting lobster pots. They died from a combination of drowning and hypothermia before the alert was raised.
All three bodies were recovered from Tramore Bay by the Irish Coastguard and RNLI.
The tragedy, one of the worst in Irish fishing history, sparked an incredible outpouring of support and sympathy.
The men's sister, Paula Bolger, told the Herald their family are still receiving Mass cards, prayer leaflets and sympathy messages from all over Ireland.
"I cannot put into words how kind and generous people have been to our family," she said.
"It has been absolutely incredible. There were days when all we did was go through huge quantities of letters.
"There were Mass cards, prayer leaflets and lovely letters where people wrote the kindest things," she added.
Paula said their priority in the aftermath of the tragedy was supporting their mother, Margaret, and the children who lost their fathers including Paul's daughter Rachel (12) and Shane's children, Calum (16) and Martha (4).
Kenny had dedicated his life to taking care of his mother.
Incredibly, a quirk of fate prevented the tragedy from claiming a fourth victim.
Paula's other brother, Anthony, would have been fishing too but for the fact he had been treated for a heart complaint.
Their uncle, Joe Whitty, who's also a fisherman, said the family take comfort from the kindness and sympathy shown to them. "Anthony had a bypass and he would normally go out fishing with Shane," he said.
"They would've been fishing in two different boats ... but the three of them coupled up (that day) to use all the gear while Anthony was getting better."
Joe said that he watched his nephews head out to sea that fateful morning.
"They just went out ahead of me. I got in at 5pm and they weren't back so I knew something was not right," he added.
Anthony has since quit fishing and said the tragedy had hit his elderly mother hardest.
"My mam always had the dinner ready for them coming back. She always knew what time they came back," he said.
"She is torn apart. Kenny looked after (our) mother, he made sure she was alright when he went out to fish."
Within a fortnight of the brothers being buried, Passage East locals launched a fundraising campaign for the Bolgers. It included sponsored runs, sports events and the biggest festival in Passage East history which runs this weekend, August 17 and 18.
Stars including Don Baker and PJ Gallagher have agreed to help raise funds for the family.
Even US star Bruce Springsteen waived most of his royalties from the song The River, for a charity cover version by a Waterford super group.
Donate to the Bolger Brothers Tragedy Fund at Allied Irish Banks, Ardkeen, Waterford A/C Number: 20146027, Sort Code 93-44-02.