His­tory wiped out in space of five hours

Bray People - - Chinese Ambassador Visits St Cronan’s - Deborah COLE­MAN

WITHIN the space of just over five hours, a huge part of County Wick­low’s mar­itime his­tory was lost with the sink­ing of the As­gard II on Thurs­day.

Since the sink­ing of the fa­mous boat that was built in Ark­low, a joint in­quiry has been launched be­tween the Ir­ish and French au­thor­i­ties to de­ter­mine what caused the in­ci­dent.

The Marine Ca­su­alty In­ves­ti­ga­tion Board con­firmed this week that it will be li­ais­ing with a sim­i­lar French board on the mat­ter.

A short time be­fore the As­gard II suc­cumbed to the floods of wa­ter which over­ran her from 2 a.m. Ir­ish time, the group of 25 sail­ers in­clud­ing crew were safely evac­u­ated at Belle- Ile- en­Mer, an is­land in the Bay of Bis­cay, just off the coast of Brit­tany.

Within 45 min­utes of the high-wa­ter level alarm the French Coast­guard had safely res­cued the crew and trainees from their lifeboats, bring­ing them ashore, from where they were trans­ferred to a nearby ho­tel.

Hours later, at 7.25 a.m., the As­gard II had gone from view, tak­ing many pre­cious mem­o­ries with her to the sea bed.

The 27- year- old ship, which was ex­tremely well known all over Ire­land, was in the re­gion of just 100 miles from its des­ti­na­tion of La Rochelle in France.

Cap­tain Colm New­port, who has cap­tained the As­gard II for many years, said that at this stage there was no con­fir­ma­tion aas to what caused the sink­ing.

‘All I can tell you is we had a se­vere ingress of wa­ter which gave the ship a crit­i­cal loss of sta­bil­ity and the ship was aban­doned. No in­juries were sus­tained to any mem­ber of the crew or trainees. We kept the raft along­side the ves­sel when we were still com­muncat­ing with the res­cue peo­ple. My de­ci­sion was, for the safety of all on board, to aban­don ship,’ he said.

The train­ing ves­sel, owned by the Ir­ish State, was spe­cially com­mis­sioned for sail train­ing pur­poses and was de­signed and built in Tyrrell’s boat yard in Ark­low over a three-year pe­riod.

For many years young sail­ers from all over the coun­try have signed up for a train­ing course aboard the im­pres­sive ship which in­clude in­struc­tion on ev­ery as­pect of sail­ing from steer­ing and scrub­bing decks to look­out, rig­ging, cook­ing and clean­ing.

The ship which was con­structed in Ark­low be­tween 1979 and 1981 played a large part in the lives of many lo­cal fam­i­lies in town and was al­ways seen as a im­por­tant tool in link­ing the coastal town with the rest of the world.

The As­gard II.

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