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Last Updated: Saturday, 21 January 2006, 18:31 GMT
Divers join search for fishermen
Divers joined the search for the missing men
Army and police divers have joined the search for two fishermen, missing after their boat sank near a NI port.

The vessel, the Greenhill, crashed onto rocks near Ardglass, County Down, at about 2000 GMT on Thursday. The boat's skipper was rescued from a liferaft.

The missing men are Donal Gibson, 23, from Downpatrick and Conor Bogue, 26, a father of two from Ballynahinch.

The official search and rescue ended on Friday. There is little chance of finding the men alive.

In a statement released on Saturday evening, Donal Gibson's family thanked everyone who took part in the search.

"We want especially to thank all those local people who have been so kind and supportive during this ordeal," they said.

Alan Pritchard from the Coastguard confirmed that the operation had moved from a search and rescue to a recovery operation.

"With the passage of time and with sea temperatures around eight or nine degrees centigrade the survivability in those conditions is limited," he said.

"I think we have exhausted all our avenues of investigation to try and locate the two crewmen safe and well."

Search

Local people gathered at the marina at Ardglass on Saturday to resume the hunt for the men's bodies.

The police, coastguard and two life boats have been involved in the search.

Police and army divers have joined volunteer divers in the hunt for the men.

Fishing trawlers have also been dragging nets in the area where the boat went down, in the hope of recovering the men's bodies.

Alex Slater
Alex Slater said it was a very difficult time for the men's families

The boat's skipper was found clinging to a life raft.

Alex Slater, from the fishermen's mission, said he was "extremely shocked and sad".

"He has lost two very, very good friends and colleagues and our hearts go out to him at a time like this," he said.

"Quite often, those who survive are forgotten in some ways and yet he has gone through the trauma of losing two of his very close friends."

Mr Slater said it was a very difficult time for the missing men's families.

"It is hard for them. There will always be a sense of loss. It is important that the bodies are brought home and laid to rest back on shore."

Fisherman Simon Willis was among people waiting anxiously at the quayside.

"Everyone knows that the boys are not going to be far from the wreck because any time anyone has been lost before, they have not been that far from the accident," he said.

"That's why we need divers. We know they will be within 40 metres of the wreck."

The man who was rescued was treated for hypothermia. He has since been discharged from the Down Hospital in Downpatrick.




SEE ALSO:
Hopes fade for missing fishermen
20 Jan 06 |  Northern Ireland
Divers head to fishing boat wreck
20 Jan 06 |  Northern Ireland


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