The Navy Diving unit has begun recovery operations this morning on the body of missing Wexford fisherman, Willie Whelan (41).

Mr Whelan has been missing since Saturday the 4 January, when his scallop dredger, ‘Alize’ sank suddenly at sometime around 10.30pm, without a distress call being made.

Mr Whelan was accompanied on board by crewmate and friend, Joe Sinnott, (65).

Mr Sinnotts body was recovered from the sea in the early hours of Sunday, 5 January after an alert was received by MRCC Dublin for an Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) activated in the vicinity of Hook Head, Co Wexford.

The emergency was raised and Irish Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 117 was deployed to the scene.

On arrival, the helicopter crew identified two small lights in the water. The first light was the EPIRB and the second was identified as a casualty.


The crew commenced winching Mr Sinnott from the water. Mr Sinnott was then recovered to awaiting ambulances at Waterford airport where he was rushed to University Hospital Waterford. R117 returned immediately to search for a second casualty.

Unfortunately, on arrival at University Hospital Waterford further attempts at resuscitation failed it was announced later that Mr Sinnott had passed away.

Since then, rescue efforts have been concentrating on finding the wreck of the ‘Alize’ and the recovery of Mr Whelan. It was suspected that his remains were inside the boat. Yesterday when divers from Hook Head Sub Aqua Club discovered a body in the hull of the sunk trawler ‘Alize’.

Navy divers have returned to to scene today and Garda HQ who is coordinating the search issued this statement:

“A body was located by a group of divers at the site of the wreck of a fishing vessel, off the coast of Hook Head, Co. Wexford on Wednesday 22nd January 2020.

“A joint operation between the Coast Guard, Navy and An Garda Síochána continues today, Thursday 23rd January 2020 to recover the body from the wreck. The ILV Granuaile vessel is on site to provide a platform for Navy Divers.

“The ongoing operation to recover the body has significant challenges.”

It is understood that Naval service divers carried out extensive work in the area of the wreck and earlier this week, members of the Garda sub-aqua unit carried out some dives.

Concerns have been raised by some locals that it took a civilian diving team to find Mr Whelan where both Navy and Garda Units failed to find him.

The wreck of the ‘Alize’ is believed to be lying in over 50 metres of water and this will create difficulties in the recovery of the body.

Willie Whelan recovery operation started today

by editor time to read: 9 min