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Saturday, 16 February, 2002, 18:03 GMT
Search for missing family called off
Lifeboats are helping in the search
Lifeboats took part in the two-day search
The coastguard has ended its search for three members of a County Down family who are feared drowned in the Irish Sea.

The search for the eight-year-old boy, his 32-year-old father and 54-year-old grandfather began on Friday after their fishing boat, the Tullaghmurray Lass, failed to return to Kilkeel.

A further search of an area off the south Down coast on Saturday failed to recover the missing family or their boat.

Coastguard spokeswoman Diana Gadd said: "The official search has been terminated and the local fishing fleet are returning to port.


For this to happen, with the line of fishing in the family, and three to go in one go is totally devastating

Gabriel Greene

"I would expect them to pick up the search tomorrow but from now on, we will only be involved if and when required."

The 10-metre vessel, was due to be taken out of service next month under a government decommissioning scheme.

The agriculture minister, Brid Rodgers, who has responsiblity for the province's fisheries department offered her condolences to the family.

"My heart goes out to the Greene family for their tragic loss," she said.

"My officials will continue to pursue whatever help they can in the circumstances.

Devastated

"I have asked to be kept fully informed about enquiries into how this terrible tragedy occurred."

Friends said it was a mystery how the boat disappeared beneath the waters which were calm at the time.

The elder man's brother, Gabriel, said the family was devastated.

An air and sea rescue operation, involving two helicopters and up to 25 boats from the Kilkeel fleet continued throughout Friday in a bid to find the missing vessel.

Gabriel Greene: Elder victim's brother
Gabriel Greene: Elder victim's brother

The search was temporarily called off overnight.

Coastguard district controller Brett Cunningham said there was little probability of finding the three alive.

Alex Slater, from the Fishermen's Mission in Kilkeel, who visited the two homes, one in the tiny village of Ballymartin and the other just outside Kilkeel, said family members feared the worst.

"As the day went on, the family were hoping for a miracle but fearing the worst," he said.

"They are traumatised. There is no other way to describe it.

"Their boat was due to be taken off the sea. That's why the wee boy went out with his grandfather.

"He just lived for the sea and wanted to be a fisherman. His father and grandfather were experienced men and all he talked about was being like them."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Kevin Connolly
"The Tullaghmurray Lass... may have collided with a larger vessel"
See also:

15 Feb 02 | Northern Ireland
Fears grow for fishing family
30 Jan 02 | Northern Ireland
Man dies after boat accident
30 Jan 02 | Northern Ireland
Three rescued after boat sinks
15 Feb 01 | Northern Ireland
Crew rescued from sinking boat
26 Oct 00 | Northern Ireland
Fishermen rescued after boat sinks
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