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A body has been recovered today (January 24) in the search for Alize skipper Willie Whelan, following a massive search and recovery operation off Hook Head.

The remains, believed to be those of the skipper, were recovered by Naval divers, following location on Wednesday (January 22) by civilian divers from Hook Sub-Aqua Club at the site of the Alize wreck.

With the ILV Granuaile onsite to provide a platform for a team of 12 Navy Divers, a joint operation between the Coast Guard, Navy and Garda Síochána, which began yesterday morning (January 23) aimed at recovering the body of the Wexford skipper, resumed at first light this morning.

A statement from an Garda Síochána issued this afternoon said, “Navy divers conducted a dive operation today Friday 24th January 2020 at 10 am at the site of the wreck of a fishing vessel, off the coast of Hook Head, Co. Wexford.

“They were successful in recovering a body from the water.”

A statement issued by The Irish Defence Forces said, “On request from An Garda Síochána, Óglaigh na hÉireann deployed the Naval Service Diving Section to conduct operations at the site of Irish fishing Vessel “Alize” which sank off Hook Head on the 4th of January.

“Operating from the Commissioners of Irish Lights vessel ILV Granuaile with support from LÉ Samuel Beckett, naval personnel over the last two days conducted specialised surface-supplied diving operations and have this afternoon recovered a body from the wreck.

“The remains have been embarked onboard the LÉ Samuel Beckett and will be brought ashore later this evening.”

A massive search, involving local fishermen, RNLI, Coast Guard, Navy, Gardai, Air Corps, Civil Defence units and locals volunteers had been ongoing since the night of January 4, after Gardaí and the Coast Guard were alerted to reports that the 11.7m Duncannon scalloper had sunk with two men on board.

A major operation was subsequently launched, with Kilmore Quay RNLI, Dunmore East RNLI and Coast Guard R117 attending.

One crewman, Kilmore Quay fisherman Joe Sinnott, was quickly recovered but passed away later on the morning of January 5 at Waterford University Hospital. Joe Sinnott was laid to rest in Kilmore on January 8, as the search for Willie Whelan continued.

The search and recovery operation, since January 6, has been led by an Garda Síochána, coordinated at sea by the Coast Guard Marine Rescue Co-ordination Centre, with the Navy onsite for much of the past weeks, acting as On-Scene Coordinator.

Subsurface searches and a profiling of the Alize wreck—which is lying at a depth of more than 50m, some ten nautical miles southwest of Hook Head— were carried out by the Naval Service Diving Section (NSDS), using side-scan sonar and remotely operated vehicle (ROV) some two weeks ago.

Garda divers had carried out dive operations at the wreck site earlier this week.

Once the recovered body has been brought to shore it will be removed to hospital for full identification by the State Pathologist.

The thoughts and prayers of everyone at The Skipper are with the families and friends of both Willie Whelan and his colleague Joe Sinnott at this time and all those who assisted in the search and recovery operation over the past weeks.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh siad.


Image courtesy of Tony Muldoon