Brexit: Expert expresses concern for fishing industry future
The families of Ross Ballantine, 39, Carl McGrath, 34, and Alan Minard, 20, have set up a fundraising campaign to raise money for the search operation. The trio was last seen on January 27 onboard the Nicola Faith vessel, which had been sailing just a few miles off the Conwy Coast, in North Wales.
Previous search and rescue operations involving lifeboats, helicopters and planes have so far been unable to locate the men.
On Friday, a mission conducted by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch found a life raft from the vessel in Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland – located 90 nautical miles from where the Nicola Faith was last seen.
The desperate families have set up a JustGiving page in order to raise £75,000 to pay for a specialist boat and equipment to help with the hunt.
Oceanic recovery expert David Mearns has also volunteered to help with the mission.
Ross Ballantine, 39, and his two sons
Carl McGrath, 34, was also on board the vessel
Mr Mearns was credited with finding the wreckage of the plane carrying former Cardiff City footballer Emiliano Sala, which crashed near the Channel Islands in 2019.
Mr Ballantine took up fishing last year after losing his job as a carpet fitter when the coronavirus pandemic struck, his sister said.
Lowri Taylor, 30, said the crew would only go four miles out to sea as they were mostly fishing for whelks.
She added her brother loved his new career as he was able to spend more time with his sons because he no longer needed to travel up and down the country with work.
Alan Minard, 20, was the youngest member on board
Ms Taylor added, due to the current restrictions, she had not seen him since they shared a video call on Christmas Day.
She said: “Fishing was a newfound job for Ross. He was a carpet fitter and he worked across the UK fitting carpets, but Covid came along, and no one wanted their carpets fitting.
“Ross took this job on with Carl who was an experienced skipper, they didn’t have to go out far because they were fishing for whelks.
“They would only be three or four miles out and always in sight of the coast.
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The Nicola Faith vessel was last seen on January 27
“Ross had been doing the job about a year and he loved it, especially the fact he didn’t have to work away from his boys during the week fitting carpets like he used to.
“Christmas was the last time I saw Ross, it was frustrating as everything is with Covid at the moment, because we were due to have a Christmas altogether.
“He has two sons and there’s six of us siblings, including Ross, and we were going to spend Christmas together, but we couldn’t.
“We FaceTimed on Christmas Day, and that was the last time I saw him.”
Ms Lowri said the MAIB would be continuing a search but it acknowledged it would not last forever.
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Oceanic recovery expert David Mearns has also volunteered to help with the mission
Seven boats from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), a helicopter and a specialist plane have already conducted searches.
Ms Lowri has been given renewed hope they will be found by having Mr Means on board with the search.
She added: “Mr Mearns has been brilliant and offering all his advice and services for free, he thinks they can definitely be found.
“But we need to act now. The fundraiser will pay for the specialists and specialist equipment needed and time is of the essence because of the nature of the sea.”
The JustGiving page has so far raised more than £34,000 towards the target and Ms Lowri thanked everyone for pledging their support so far.
A statement from the MAIB said the raft found on Friday will be transported to Southampton for further analysis.
A spokesman said: “The investigation into the causes and circumstances surrounding the vessel’s loss is ongoing.
“The search for the vessel which is being co-ordinated by the MAIB is continuing. MAIB has been working with underwater search experts to cover a wide area including all of the vessel’s historic operating area.”
To donate to the JustGiving page click here