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The BBC's Carole Jones reports
"All the crew have been found"
 real 28k

BBC Scotland's Willie Johnston reports
Rev. Alexander Currie and Donald Gelling speak of their relief at the successful recovery operation
 real 28k

Rev. Alexander Currie
"There were prayers that all seven would be brought home"
 real 28k

Willie Johnston
"It's been a very long and frustrating week but in the end it all happened very quickly"
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Saturday, 5 February, 2000, 00:03 GMT
Crewmen's bodies brought ashore

Piper A lone piper plays as the ship carrying the bodies comes into port

An emotional but dignified welcome greeted the ship carrying the bodies of the Harvester seven - lost at sea more than three weeks ago.

The men's heartbroken relatives gathered alongside the media, officials and the emergency services as the supply vessel Scotian Shore docked at the Isle of Man's Douglas Harbour.

The crew
Craig Mills, 29
Robin Mills, 33
David Mills, 17
Martin Milligan, 26
John Murphy, 22
David Lyons, 18
Wesley Jolly, 17
As a lone piper, in full Highland dress, played Flower of Scotland and Amazing Grace the boat dropped anchor and a crane slowly and carefully lifted a metal container, draped with the Manx flag and the saltire, onto the pier.

Police officers saluted and onlookers openly wept.

Undertakers then took charge of the dead men's bodies and drove them to Nobles Hospital in Douglas where post-mortems will be carried out.

Relatives, who flew to the island on Thursday, were said to be tearful, but relieved on hearing the news that all seven had been found.

Divers reached the vessel - where it lay 38 metres down on the seabed, 10 miles off the Isle of Man - and the bodies - three on the gutting deck and four in the sleeping quarters.

There were many tears and I joined them in those tears, there were tears of relief that all seven bodies had been found
Rev. Alexander Currie
They were transferred to the salvage vessel CSO Wellservicer and then onto Scotian Shore where they were taken back to the Isle of Man on Friday evening.

Post mortems will be carried out and an inquest will be opened on Saturday. The bodies will be returned to their families on Sunday. They are expected to be brought back to the south west of Scotland on Monday.

The salvage team still intend to lift the wreck, but not until weather conditions are more favourable.

Prayers for operation's success

Minister, the Rev. Alexander Currie, who had travelled with the families spoke about their reaction to the news.

He said: "There were many tears and I joined them in those tears, there were tears of relief that all seven bodies had been found.

"There were prayers in church last Sunday that all seven would be brought home and I thank God that those prayers were heard on their behalf.

Policeman A dignified welcome for the return of the men
"I have been with the families in their grief as a fellow traveller in this journey, it is not yet complete and will not be complete for years to come.

"Our desire was to bring the men home for a burial that would be appropriate to their memories."

The funerals are likely to take place next week.

Isle of Man chief minister Donald Gelling, who had overseen the operation, said everyone's thoughts were with the families.

He added: "As far as the Isle of Man government is concerned we are extremely relieved that we have been able to get the bodies for the coroner for the inquest."

Bad weather

The operation to raise the vessel and retrieve the bodies had been continually hampered by bad weather and the divers volunteered to commence a risky underwater recovery.

Experts said they accepted that the diving operation would not be without hazards.

Rev. Alexander Currie Rev. Alexander Currie: "Relief"
Premliminary assessment of the Kirkcudbright-based scallop dredger pinpointed three of the bodies and experts had expressed hopes that the remaining four would be found.

At lunchtime, divers from the salvage vessel used a dive bell and heavy suits to carry out the operation.

The wreck was being towed underneath the salvage vessel after being lifted a few metres from the sea bed where she had sunk 11 miles off the island on 11 January.

Salvage experts were taking it into calmer waters about four miles off the island's Laxey Bay before attempting to lift her to the surface.

But police said the CSO Wellservicer was able to take the Solway Harvester only one mile before she had to lower the vessel back down to the sea bed as poor weather once more caused problems.

After another day of tension, the divers decided to enter the vessel and look for the remains of the crew.

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See also:
04 Feb 00 |  Scotland
Divers begin to recover bodies
03 Feb 00 |  Scotland
New Harvester lift hopes
02 Feb 00 |  Scotland
Underwater tow plan devised
30 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Second Harvester body located
14 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Solway Harvester: A tale of tragedy
29 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Storms hit salvage operation
31 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Harvester hull 'undamaged'

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