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BBC's Andrew Cassell reports
"Lifeboats went out in the hope they would come back with survivors - they did not"
 real 28k

The BBC's Simon Montague
"Efforts to improve the industry's safety record have had little effect"
 real 28k

Peter Diamond, Liverpool Coastguard
"The wreckage is lying on its starboard side"
 real 28k

Radio 5 Live's David Miller reports
"The community of Whithorn is devastated"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 12 January, 2000, 21:27 GMT
Trawler wreckage located

Skipper, brother and boat graphic Lost: Skipper Craig Mills (left) and his brother Robin

Watch Reporting Scotland's coverage of the Solway Harvester sinking - click here.

The wreckage has been found of the trawler which sank in the Irish Sea with the loss of all seven crew.

Dumfries and Galloway Police said sonar soundings appeared to have located the Solway Harvester lying upright on its starboard side in about 100ft of water 11 miles off the Isle of Man.

It was detected by a cable-laying vessel, the Humber Surveyor, which was in the area and offered assistance to the search operation.

Hopes of finding the crew alive had dwindled by early on Wednesday afternoon after the discovery of a second unopened liferaft.

David Mills Lost: David Mills, 18, the skipper's cousin
Search teams also recovered a lifebelt and an emergency radio beacon, which had automatically broadcast a Mayday to a passing satellite.

Early on Wednesday afternoon, a helicopter spotted an oil slick and debris in the area where the distress beacon was activated.

The Kirkcudbright-registered scallop dredger had been expected to arrive in port at 0200 GMT but contact was lost on Tuesday evening when it was forced to take shelter off the Isle of Man in what coastguards described as "horrendous" conditions.

Debris speculation

There is speculation that the vessel struck debris in the water as it sought refuge, possibly causing it to sink.

Solway Harvester crew
Skipper Craig Mills
His brother Robin Mills
David Mills, 18, cousin of the skipper
Martin Milligan
David Lyons, 17
John Murphy, 22
Wesley Jolly, 17
Donald McDonald, deputy district controller of Liverpool coastguard, which co-ordinated the search, said: "Following on from the search last night, improved weather conditions and daylight allowed us to intensify the search.

"Unfortunately, following the discovery of the second lifeboat, had any of the crew been on the surface we believe we would have seen them by now.

"Our units are at the end of their endurance and we are calling them back in.

John Murphy Lost: John Murphy, 22
"However, we will be keeping a presence in the area with merchant vessels.

He said the survival time in the water would have been less than half an hour.

It emerged that the crew were from the Whithorn area, on the edge of Wigtown Bay and some of the men were related.

'Devastating blow'

The family of skipper Craig Mills, whose brother Robin and cousin David were on board, said they were too upset to speak to reporters.

David Lyons Lost: David Lyons, 17
A relative who answered the door of Mr Mills' parents' house in Main Street, Isle of Whithorn, said: "They're very upset. We've just heard officially about the second liferaft. It's a devastating blow."

As fears mounted of a tragedy, the distress of crewman James Gorman, who was unable to make the fishing trip because of illness, was evident throughout the fishing community.

An anguished Mr Gorman joined other people on the quayside as they waited for news.

Heading for shelter

The vessel, which had set out on Sunday evening had called its sister boat, the Tobrach-n, at 1750GMT on Tuesday to say it was heading for cover in Ramsey, Isle of Man.

Coastguards said the seas at the time were moderate to rough, with force five to six south westerly winds, but they soon deteriorated to force nine winds and "horrendous" conditions as a weather front passed over.

Wesley Jolly Lost: Wesley Jolly, 17
The last signal from the well-known fishing vessel's EPIRB system came 11 miles south east of the Isle of Man and was relayed to coastguards at Clyde, who informed colleagues at Liverpool.

Liverpool coastguard launched a Mayday relay and alerted lifeboats from Workington, Cumbria, as well as Douglas, Ramsey and Port St Mary on the Isle of Man - all of which searched the eastern side of the island.

Rescue helicopters

Two rescue helicopters also flew to the area from RNAS Prestwick in Ayrshire, and RAF Valley in north Wales and various merchant and fishing vessels were also called in to assist.

As conditions worsened, bigger vessels were brought in to help, including at one point the Ben Mychree Isle of Man ferry, with 98 passengers and 38 crew on board and the Royal Fleet auxiliary vessel Bayleaf.

Coastguards also enlisted the help of the Irish Air Corps helicopter, which has heat-seeking capability and a fixed wing plane from the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

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See also:
12 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Fishing community faces up to loss
12 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Sinking unites politicians
12 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Fishing safety back in the spotlight
12 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Solway Harvester tragedy in pictures

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