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Village in shock after three killed in boat fire

A close-knit coastal village was in shock today as investigators launched a probe into a boat fire which claimed the lives of three anglers.

Irishman Richard Harman, 69, and Germans Mike Schmidt, 70, and Wolfgang Schroeder, 62, were killed when their 25ft motor cruiser the Castaway sank off west Cork last night.

Mr Harman and Mr Schmidt both lived in the popular tourist village of Glengarriff, while Mr Schroeder lived near Bantry.

Their friend, named locally as American Ed Dziato, was the sole survivor of the fire.

He was winched to safety from the water and taken to Bantry General Hospital, where he was later discharged.

Mr Harman's family and friends gathered in a pub in the village last night as locals offered their sympathies.

The retired farmer and auctioneer, who was due to celebrate his 70th birthday next month, was well known in the community through his work and activism with Fine Gael.

Mr Schmidt, who was retired and had been living in Glengarriff for about 20 years, was an experienced seaman after spending years working in the merchant navy.

Officials from the Marine Casualty Investigation Board are carrying out an inquiry into the incident.

Gardai in Castletownbere are also conducting their own probe into the fire.

It is understood the investigations will centre on whether an explosion in the engine caused the blaze.

Local councillor Noel Harrington said people in Glengarriff were devastated.

"These guys were very popular and well-known. I knew Mike and Richard very, very well myself," he said.

"Fishing was so important to them and they enjoyed it very much.

"Any death like this is a tragedy but to lose three men in one area is really devastating.

"It must be a terrible trauma for Ed too."

The tragedy occurred about half a mile from shore in Bantry Bay, near Adrigole harbour, at around 5.30pm, 12 miles from Glengarriff.

The Waterford-based coastguard rescue helicopter, which had been on a separate mission in the Caha mountains on the Beara peninsula when the alarm was raised, was on the scene within minutes.

All four men were in the water when it arrived.

An RNLI lifeboat crew from nearby Castletownbere, a Customs surveillance boat and a French-registered yacht also attended the rescue attempt.