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Last Updated: Friday, 20 January 2006, 17:17 GMT
Divers head to fishing boat wreck
Search boats off Ardglass
A huge search is under way for the missing men
A break in the weather has allowed police divers to examine the wreck of a fishing boat which sank near a Northern Ireland port.

A major search is continuing for two fishermen missing since their boat, the Greenhill, crashed onto rocks near Ardglass, County Down on Thursday.

They have been named locally as Donal Gibson from Downpatrick and Conor Bogues from Ballynahinch.

Another crew member was found on a liferaft by Portaferry Lifeboat.

Simon Rogers from the lifeboat said when they picked up the survivor his first concern was to let rescuers know he had not been alone.

"He was a very lucky man to be alive, I don't know who was more happy - him to see us or us to see him," he said.

Gordon Munro from the coastguard said bad weather on Friday had been making it too dangerous for divers to go down.

"So we are hoping that the weather will abate, that we can confirm that that is the wreck of the vessel we are looking for," he said.

A piece of wreckage from the ship was washed up on the shore
A piece of wreckage from the ship was washed up on the shore

"We are still hopeful that we will recover the two missing persons along the coastline.

"The length of time they have been in the water, we are still hopeful that they might be alive, but the water is very cold."

The fisheries protection vessel, the Ken Vickers, which has specialised sonar searching equipment on board, is also due to survey the remains of the Greenhill.

The boat hit the rocks near the County Down fishing port at about 2000 GMT on Thursday.

The alarm was raised when the Greenhill's distress beacon was activated and the signal was picked up by the coastguard.

A major air, sea and land operation, involving more than 700 people, got under way early on Friday morning, on coastline about a mile north of Ardglass.

Police and coastguard helicopters are involved and teams of people, led by the emergency services, are checking the rocky headland on foot for any sign of the missing men. Seven fishing boats have also joined in the search.

Alex Slater of the Fishermen's Mission said it was a difficult time for the families, but they were grateful for the support from the community.

"The families were pretty traumatised yesterday," he said.

Simon Rogers
Simon Rogers of Portaferry Lifeboat helped rescue the survivor

"The fishing community from all parts of Ireland rally round when they hear there is a fisherman in trouble and a family in trouble, and they are all praying for the family and caring for the family at this moment in time."

Local fisherman Brian Feenan took his boat out to help on Thursday evening.

"It was not a very nice night, the wind got up," he said.

"There was too strong a sea. You had men on the boats standing looking out trying to see if they could see anything. You have got to think of their lives too."


Richard Newell, Rescue Centre Manager at Belfast, said the rescued man was treated for hypothermia. He has since been discharged from the Down Hospital in Downpatrick.

He is thought to have been the skipper of the boat.

"The Portaferry lifeboat located a life raft with one person aboard from the missing fishing vessel," Mr Newell said.

"The casualty informed the lifeboat crew that there were a further two fishermen aboard the vessel."

Coastguard teams from Newcastle, Whiterock and Portaferry were sent to conduct a close inshore search and RNLI lifeboats from Portaferry and Newcastle were also requested.

The PSNI helicopter is helping search the waters off Ardglass, along with a team of uniformed officers working along the shoreline.

The Irish Rescue helicopter from Dublin has also joined in the search operation.

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