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Tuesday 6 December 2016

Pensioner dies as fishing trip family clung to capsized boat for six hours

The RNLI crew – Capt Peter Ferguson, Aidan Bates, Sam Nunn, Joe Maddock, Peadar Raftery and Eugene Kehoe – who rescued the survivors after a boat capsized off the the Saltee Islands
The RNLI crew – Capt Peter Ferguson, Aidan Bates, Sam Nunn, Joe Maddock, Peadar Raftery and Eugene Kehoe – who rescued the survivors after a boat capsized off the the Saltee Islands

A pensioner has died during a family fishing trip that saw ten people stranded in freezing cold water for up to six hours off the Wexford coast.

Francis Smith (73) from Salisbury, England - who was understood to have been visiting in-laws in Ferns - lost his life half a mile from the Saltee Islands after a freak wave caused the 18-foot vessel they were travelling in to capsize on Saturday afternoon.

The alarm was raised shortly before 11.30pm after a concerned family member notified emergency services that the boat had failed to return.

"They set off from Kilmore Quay shortly after 2pm," said the RNLI's Aidan Bates.

"A family member tried calling eight of their mobiles, and when they didn't ring she raised the alarm. Thankfully they were all wearing life-jackets or the tragedy could be 10 times worse." he added.

It is understood a woman, eight men and a teenage boy clung onto the overturned boat and took turns resting on the bow.

The boat is believed to have overturned in a large swell when a breaking wave smashed the wheelhouse windows and flooded the vessel.

The scene was attended by the Fethard-on-Sea and Kilmore Quay life boats and coast guard units out of Kilmore Quay and Dunmore East. A small passenger ferry, An Crossan, crewed by Kilmore Quay RNLI lifeboat members also joined the search and pulled the them to safety.

The Waterford-based coast guard helicopter also attended the scene, and transferred Mr Smith, who had lost conciousness, to University Hospital Waterford where he was later pronounced dead.

The other nine people were transferred by road to Wexford General Hospital where one man later suffered a heart attack. He is now in a stable condition.

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