The Lough Ree tragedy - a Westmeath perspective

Athlone Sub Aqua Club and Athlone RNLI search lough Ree,Photo Ann Hennessy
Athlone Sub Aqua Club and Athlone RNLI search lough Ree,Photo Ann Hennessy

A candle lights in the window of water sports facility Baysports, less than a mile as the crow flies from where the Lough Ree angling tragedy unfolded at Yew Point.

Several friends and family members of missing fisherman Daryl Burke stand around the building, looking helplessly out at the water as another day’s search winds down for the day amid stormy, gusty winter and treacherous, choppy lake waters on Monday afternoon.

The scene is undoubtedly one of extreme sadness, indeed, at the very same time on Monday afternoon that the funeral of David Warnock was taking place in St John’s Parish Church, Mullabrack.

However, a spirit of cooperation and determination abides among the many organisations, many of whom are voluntary and giving of their time freely, to work to recover the missing fisherman and reunite him with his loved ones. Several of the friends, club members and family who travelled from Armagh to Hodson Bay were too upset to comment when approached on Monday.

Since Friday, Baysports in Hodson Bay has become the main coordination centre for the search operation headed up by the RNLI, assisted by Gardai, civil defence staff, members of subaqua clubs and anglers, along with family and friends of the missing angler, who have been congregating at the watersports facility at various times.

“It’s important to facilitate the family and the relatives as much as we can in the difficult circumstances they are experiencing. In terms of making the facilities available it goes without saying, we’re delighted to do that,” Richie O’Hara from Baysports told the Westmeath Independent.

He hailed the community spirit over the weekend which saw huge numbers of anglers, boats and divers turn out to aid the search. Huge numbers of people also turned up with food and drinks for those involved in the operation, along with offers of accomodation and help for the friends and families of three fishermen in Hodson Bay.

“It’s remarkable and it’s testimony to the great community spirit that prevails in the locality on every side of Athlone. We have close connections with the people in the RNLI on the Coosan side so we would know the locals and there have been so many offers of soup, sandwiches there and the same on this side here.”

Cormac Nott from Athlone Sub Aqua Club echoed those sentiments, saying that there were up to 50 boats involved in the search over the weekend.

“The community spirit over the weekend was fantastic,” he remarked after the search wound down on Monday afternoon amid worsening weather and poor weather forecast.

“It restores your faith in humanity when you see that (community spirit). The Hodson Bay Hotel have been great to everyone involved as well.”

Lifeboat operations manager Damien Delaney paid tribute to the huge numbers who turned out to help the search operation, praising RNLI volunteers who have been working solid since the tragedy unfolded on Thursday, aided by local anglers, Inland Fisheries, the many sub aqua clubs from all over the country, Civil Defence and garda units. He sincerely thanked Coosan Cottage, and the many local people who turned up with food and other assistance to their base in Coosan Point since last Thursday, paying tribute to their kindness and community spirit during a difficult time for families of the Northern Ireland fishermen.

“It’s a terrible tragedy for three families, we just want to find him and let them grieve,” he concluded.

Article supplied by The Westmeath Independent