Fiancée of tragic trawler skipper settles action
The fiancée of a trawler skipper who lost his life when it sank off the Wexford coast nine years ago has settled her High Court action aganst the vessel owner for €225,000.
Thomas Hennessy, 30, was the skipper of the Pere Charles when it went down close to Hook Head on the evening of January 10, 2007. Five men, including Mr Hennessy, lost their lives in the tragedy just a few miles from shore as they returned to harbour after a day fishing along the south east coast.
Mr Justice Kevin Cross approved the €225,000 settlement on Thursday for Mr Hennessy's partner Louise Doyle and their children. Ms Doyle had been engaged to Mr Hennessy for several years and they were planning a summer wedding at the time of his death. The trawler disappeared just after another fishing boat also returning to shore received a call on the VHF radio from Mr Hennessy to say: 'She had breached on me. Stand by.'
Despite an intensive coast and sea search which lasted for weeks, a navy dive and the subsequent lifting of the Pere Charles from the sea bed, the bodies of skipper Tom Hennessy, and crewmen Andrei Dyrin, 32, Pat Coady, 27, Billy O'Connor, 52, and Pat Hennessy, 48, were never found. Ms Doyle sued Michael Walsh of Arthurstown, the owner of the Pere Charles. It was claimed Mr Walsh had failed to have regard to the fact that the stability of the vessel depended upon the closed superstructure. He had allegedly destroyed the closed nature of the superstructure by removing the bulkhead and sliding door, as well as a steel sill leaving an open space at deck level.
It was claimed the negligent acts of modification were carried out to the vessel notwithstanding the warnings issued by the Department of Transport in safety notices.
The negligence complained of, it was claimed, was exacerbated on the fatal day by the overloading of the vessel with a catch of fish in excess of 46 tonnes when the ship was designed on the stability criteria to carry a maximum load of 36 tonnes of fish. The excess weight of fish it was contended was high up in the vessel and therefore raised the trawler's centre of gravity, reducing her stability and her ability to resist capsizing.
Mr Hennessy had gone off to work in the early morning and Ms Doyle had spoken to him at lunchtime and he said he was very busy. Later that evening she was told the boat was missing. Ms Doyle waited with other family and community members at the quayside at Dunmore East for news of the trawler.