An investigation has been launched into the drowning of two fishermen off the north Connemara coast this week.
The bodies of two men both from the Claddaghduff area, were recovered from the sea off the Cleggan coast during an extensive air and sea search on Tuesday. They were taken to the mortuary at University Hospital Galway where post-mortems were carried out yesterday. It is expected that The Marine Casualty Investigation Board will now carry out an investigation into the tragedy.
Thirty-six-year-old married father of two, Tony Coohill, and 58-year-old father and grandfather, Féichín Mulkerrin, set out in an open currach from the local pier at Aughris at about 8.30am to check on lobster pots.
Weather conditions were described as good, however it is believed that the currach may have been swamped by an unexpected swell before being overturned and that both men fell overboard. At about 11.15am the alarm was raised by passing fishermen who spotted the currach on rocks close to Omey Island.
The Coast Guard at Malin Head sent out an immediate alert and RNLI lifeboats were sent from nearby stations at Clifden and Achill. They were joined by an Irish Coast Guard helicopter sent out from Shannon Airport, the Cleggan Coast Guard shore site team, and an Air Corps Casa maritime patrol aircraft.
Some 15 local fishing and passenger boats as well as divers offered their assistance. The Naval Service diving team also joined the rescue operation.
It was after 2pm before the body of Tony Coohill was recovered by lifeboats. The body of Féichín Mulkerrin was found by local divers three hours later near where the currach had been. They were taken ashore and brought to UHG.
While the search was being carried out worried and distressed family members gathered at Aughris Pier.
This is not the first time that tradegy has hit both sets of families. Paddy and Teresa Coohill have already lost three sons in recent years; one son drowned off the coast of Donegal while two died in England of natural causes. A brother of Féichín Mulkerrin drowned at Galway Docks over 20 years ago.
According to local Galway County Councillor Josie Conneely the tight knit community is “in total shock” after hearing the news that two local men, who lived beside each other and fished together regularly, had drowned. The Fianna Fail councillor said that it was especially sad for the families.
“They would have been very experienced fishermen who grew up right beside the sea, it was a livelihood for them. It was a new boat, a canvas currach which is lighter than the timber ones. It is very unfortunate,” said Cllr Conneely who added that it is believed the two men were not wearing life jackets at the time.
Cllr Conneely complimented locals, gardai, and all emergency and rescue services for their quick response.