Fisherman pals were found right beside each other
TWO fishermen friends "sailed together, were found together and were pronounced dead together", an inquest has heard.
Coroner Ronan Maguire said the appalling tragedy had gripped the nation.
After the inquest the families of Ronan Browne (26) and David Gilsenan (41) expressed their thanks to everybody who was involved.
They said the "support the families got was unbelievable".
The bodies were recovered in the Irish Sea off Clogherhead after a prawn trawler came upon them just over a week after they went missing.
Drogheda Coroners Court heard that on the morning of April 1 David had shared a "cup of tea and banter" with his friend Kevin Philips who was working at Skerries harbour.
Mr Philips told the gardai that David was his best friend, and had said he was going out to help Ronan Browne with his lobster pots.
When Mr Philips saw that both men's vans were still at the harbour at about 5.15pm, he immediately raised the alarm with the RNLI station master and the lifeboat was launched.
The inquest also heard from Kevin Lawless, who had known Ronan all his life, that he had helped to restore the boat the men went out on, the Lady Linda.
Mr Lawless positively identified the boat to gardai when it was found floating upturned in the sea off Clogherhead on the April 2, the day after they went to sea.
Their bodies were recovered on April 9, some 5.2 miles off the Clogherhead coast by a fishing trawler.
Joe Clarke, the skipper of the Gliding Light, which sails out of Kilkeel in Co Down, said he and the crew were trawling for prawns and had started to haul in the nets at around 1.15am when he saw oilskins in the nets and "I knew it was a body".
He stopped the boat and alerted the coastguard.
The coxswain of the Clogherhead lifeboat, Barry Faulkner, said it had responded to the call from the prawn trawler.
Mr Faulkner had recognised the body as that of David Gilsenan. The lifeboat shone a light into the water and were able to see a second body lower in the water.
He told gardai the bodies were "entangled together" with potting rope.
The lifeboat and crew took both bodies back to shore at Clogherhead, where both men were formally pronounced dead.
Pathologist Dr John Ryan carried out post mortem examinations on both men and concluded both had drowned, and with David Gilsenan he found that hypothermia had been a significant contributing factor.
Recording verdicts of accidental death, the coroner said it was "an appalling tragedy that happened to good friends who went out together all the time".
He said nobody knows what happened and an investigation by the Marine Casualty Investigations Board is expected to issue its findings shortly.
The coroner added that they were friends "that sailed together, were found together and were pronounced dead together".
"It was an appalling tragedy that gripped the country, their colleagues searched a long time for them, I express my sympathies to their families."
Speaking after the inquest, the families thanked everybody who helped in the search and rescue of their loved ones.
"Thank you to everybody who was involved at the time. The support the families got was unbelievable. Thank you to all the agencies including the lifeboats, the gardai, the civil defence, the air corps and all the fishermen."