Wednesday 22 January 2020

Trawler tragedy probe launched as searches continue

Gardai at Hook Head, Co Wexford, near the scene of the trawler tragedy in which Joseph Sinnott died
Gardai at Hook Head, Co Wexford, near the scene of the trawler tragedy in which Joseph Sinnott died
Joseph Sinnott
Searches are continuing for William Whelan, who was also on board the Alize trawler when it sent out a distress signal

Authorities have launched a formal investigation into the fatal incident involving a trawler off the Wexford coast which left one fisherman dead while searches continue for a second missing man.

Joseph Sinnott (65), a father-of-four from Kilmore Quay, died following the tragic incident, which emergency services were alerted to on Saturday.

Mr Sinnott was recovered from the water and brought to University Hospital Waterford, where he was pronounced dead on Sunday morning.

A second fisherman, William Whelan (41), was also on board the Alize trawler when it sent out a distress signal.

Searches are continuing for Mr Whelan, who only married in recent months, but he has not yet been recovered.


A formal investigation has been launched in an effort to establish what led to the trawler getting into difficulty before sinking about 10km south of Hook Head.

The Marine Casualty Investigation Board, an independent body, confirmed to the Herald that it was carrying out an investigation.

Unfavourable weather conditions delayed the search for Mr Whelan yesterday morning, but rescue teams eventually managed to deploy at 9am.

Two RNLI lifeboats, from Dunmore East and Kilmore Quay, were dispatched, along with Irish Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 117. The Irish Naval Service vessel, the LE Ciara, was deployed from Rosslare Harbour at 6am and acted as co-ordinator.

Naval Service dive teams are on standby to assist the search, but have not yet been formally requested, while conditions were also unsuitable for divers, with swells of up to six metres in some search areas yesterday.

The weather is expected to further hamper a full-scale search today, but conditions are expected to improve tomorrow.

The Taoiseach was among those to pay tribute to the search and rescue teams who have been working tirelessly in an effort to locate Mr Whelan.

Leo Varadkar said he spoke to the director of the Irish Coast Guard Eugene Clonan to thank staff and volunteers for their ongoing efforts.

"As a former transport minister, I am very conscious of the brave service provided by the Coast Guard's staff and volunteers right around our coastline," the Taoiseach said.

The funeral of Mr Sinnott will take place at St Mary's Church, Kilmore, tomorrow morning, followed by his burial in the New Cemetery Kilmore.

Over the past few days, neighbours and friends gathered at the house he shared with his wife Mary to comfort her and the Sinnott family.

"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," Mr Sinnott's son Michael said.

"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. The boat was in good condition," he added.

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