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Shock as dad-of-4 dies and second man is missing in tragedy

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A fishing vessel takes part in the search for the missing trawler off Co Wexford. Photo: Steve Humphreys

A fishing vessel takes part in the search for the missing trawler off Co Wexford. Photo: Steve Humphreys

A fishing vessel takes part in the search for the missing trawler off Co Wexford. Photo: Steve Humphreys

A father-of-four has died and a second man remains missing after a trawler sank off the cost of Co Wexford.

Joe Sinnott (65) was winched from the sea and rushed to hospital, but who died later.

A search was due to resume this morning for a second crewman, Willie Whelan, who is in his 40s and had only recently got married.

The tragedy has hit the close-knit community of Kilmore Quay and nearby villages and townlands.

A huge search operation began when the Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) from the 12m fishing boat Alize automatically alerted Coast Guard personnel at 10.30pm on Saturday.

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

Comfort

They had been fishing for scallops nearly 10km south of Hook Head. Mr Sinnott, a father-of-four and grandfather-of-nine, was from the Seaview area of Kilmore Quay.

Neighbours, friends and the wider community gathered at the house he shared with his wife Mary to comfort her and the Sinnott family on their loss.

"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," Joe's son Michael told the Herald.

"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 Waterford but later died.

The family of the second man missing was also being comforted by neighbours and friends as they await news.

Local Fianna Fail councillor Michael Whelan, from New Ross, said the family of missing fisherman Willie Whelan was still holding out hope that he would be rescued or at least that his body would be found.

"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 over an hour.

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

He said the loss of both men is still a blow to the local community and that Willie had only just married five months ago.

"Obviously, our thoughts are with the families," he said.

Conditions yesterday were difficult, with a strong wind and rain hampering visibility, causing the search to be called off.

Many local fishing vessels were also involved in the search which was being co-ordinated by the Le Ciara off Hook Head.

Some items from the stricken boat have been spotted in the water and recovered.

The trawler, a scallop fishing vessel, was said to be in good condition and working in good sea conditions, when it sank.

The boat is a steel-hulled vessel built in the UK in 1989.

Defence Minister Paul Kehoe, TD for Wexford, said the sinking of the trawler was "a hugely tragic incident that has shocked the community".

Devoted

"I know that Le Ciara is at the scene and that all efforts are being made by emergency services," Mr Kehoe added.

"My thoughts at this time are with the families impacted."

A garda spokeswoman said: "Searches were carried out by the RNLI and R117 Helicopter. One male in his 60s was recovered from the water and taken to University Hospital Waterford where he has since passed away. Searches continue for the second man."

Rosslare district Fine Gael councillor Jim Moore, who lives in Kilmore Quay, said the community is reeling from the tragedy.

He said Mr Sinnott was a life-long fisherman who was devoted to his wife Mary and their four children.

"He was very much a family man," he said.

He said Mr Sinnott was a quiet man whose death has left the area in shock.

"It's the first weekend of the new year and a tragedy has been visited on us. It's a small community and people are only just getting back from their holidays. It's just very sad," he said.