Nicola Faith: Government patrol vessel could join search

  • Published
FPV Rhodri MorganImage source, Welsh Government
Image caption,
The Rhodri Morgan is a 26 metre patrol vessel that weighs 75 tonnes

A search for the Nicola Faith could soon be helped by government-owned patrol vessel.

The fishing boat failed to return to Conwy's port in January, with three bodies believed to be the men on board, since found.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) said it is keen to find the wreck to understand why it sank.

Officials are discussing with Welsh Government about using the Rhodri Morgan fisheries vessel.

A search for Ross Ballantine, 39, Alan Minard, 20, and skipper Carl McGrath, 34, began after the boat failed to return to harbour on 27 January.

Earlier this month, its life raft was found off the coast of Kirkcudbrightshire in Scotland by the Coastguard.

The bodies of three men were then found this week off the north-west coast of England, with family members informed and post-mortem examinations taking place.

Image source, Family photos
Image caption,
Alan Minard, Ross Ballantine and Carl McGrath were all aboard the Nicola Faith went it went missing

"This was a truly tragic accident which has left a community with many unanswered questions," said MAIB Ch Insp Andrew Moll.

"I and my colleagues at the MAIB share their urgent need for answers and to fully understand what went wrong."

More than £52,000 of a £75,000 target has been raised by the men's families to intensify the search.

It will be joined by David Mearns, who helped in the search for Cardiff City signing Emiliano Sala, whose plane disappeared off Guernsey.

Investigators said poor weather had been forecast for the next few days, which meant "enhanced capability" will be deployed at the weekend, with plans to expand the search area.

Image caption,
The Nicola Faith's empty life raft was found on 5 March off the coast of Scotland

Natural Resources Wales has given sonar equipment to help locate the Nicola Faith, and it is hoped fishing patrol vessel the Rhodri Morgan - named in honour of the former first minister - could also join on Saturday.

"To date more than 30 square miles of seabed have been searched using specialist equipment. We have been able to identify the vessel's primary operating area and this has been searched with a considerable amount of overlap," Ch Insp Moll added.

"The specialist equipment that is being used is extremely sensitive and the search has been hampered by poor weather in recent weeks.

"We remain hopeful that this immense effort will bring news the families hope for very soon."