Brixham fishing community rally to family's aid
THE close-knit fishing community across South Devon is rallying to support the family of a trawlerman at the centre of the latest tragedy to hit the fleet.
A search was launched for skipper Geoff Ingram, 51, (pictured right, during his lifeboat days), the owner of the Sarah Jayne trawler (pictured below), after she sank off Berry Head, Brixham.
Two crewmates were plucked from the water by Teignmouth-based The Girl Rona after the boat sank on Tuesday morning. It was the fourth sinking of a fishing vessel in recent months.
Within hours of the sinking, more than 25 fishing boats were working together in the search for the well-known former lifeboat crewman and popular skipper.
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Many fishing boats dumped their catches at Brixham and went straight back to sea.
One skipper instantly donated his £2,000 catch as moves were made to set up a special fund for the Ingram family.
Trawlermen, the wives of fishermen and others have launched a fund to support the Ingrams who live in Exmouth (see below).
The Sarah Jayne was originally a Brixham boat and still fishes out of the port.
She was sold by former Torbay lifeboat coxswain Dave Hurford to Mr Ingram.
Mr Hurford, a close friend of the Ingram family, said as he took part in the search from on board his fishing vessel The Constant Friend: "It's just terrible. Geoff is a friend. I've known him for probably 40 years. I was in Exmouth lifeboat crew for a short time as well.
"He is a really nice guy. There is not a bad bone in his body. The Sarah Jayne was built in 1980. I named her after my daughter and Geoff's wife is called Sarah Jayne. That's why he kept the name."
Mr Hurford's partner, Susan Smith, said: "It is a terrible tragedy. With the fishing industry being such a close-knit community, it hits everybody hard.
"At this time we are just thinking of Sarah Jane because obviously we know the family well."
John Anderson, superintendent of Brixham Fishermen's Mission, said: "When I became aware that the Sarah Jayne had gone down, I visited Torbay Hospital where the two crewmen were after they were airlifted from the deck of the Girl Rona. They are OK.
"The boys said they had just been fishing in the same way they have been doing a 1,000 times before when the boat lurched and took in water. It is not clear at this point how it happened.
"I then went out to Exmouth to speak to the family of the missing fisherman. It is very difficult for them. I spent Tuesday evening with them. I have been keeping them updated on what is happening on the ground.
"The lifeboats from Brixham and Exmouth were doing a further search on Wednesday.
"Police divers are hoping to survey the vessel to confirm whether or not the missing man went down with the boat.
"We had a breakfast here at the mission on Wednesday morning with people visiting the fish market. There is no fund as such as yet but people want to help. They have been donating. They want to do something. We will direct any money raised towards a fund if one is set up or directly to the family.
"It is good to have people made aware that even if it is not a lot of money, it still shows that the community is concerned and want to be involved.
"It is the way fishing communities work. They are very focused as a community."
Supt Anderson added: "For the lifeboat crew, they wanted to keep going back out there because the coxswain, Richard Fowler, is a fisherman. He knows the crew of the boat that went down. He will want to be our there as a fisherman to do his best. He told me they want to do their best. That's all they want to do. It is also a good exercise for them to hone their skills so they are even better next time.
"For the Exmouth lifeboat crew it is even more important to go back out because it is their town.
"They know the guys so well. It's very difficult for all fishing communities."
Brixham Fish Market auctioneer Barry Young said that the skipper of the fishing boat The Propitious, Dave Wilson, donated his entire catch of sprats on the day the Sarah Jayne sank to start a fund for the family of the missing fisherman.
That catch was then matched by the auctioneers which instantly took the fund on the first day to £4,000.
Mr Young said: "We all put our hands in our pockets to help the family. This is what the fishing community does. It stands together. Everyone will go to anyone else's aid."
He said that people who want to donate can contact the auctioneers at Brixham Trawler Agents until a central fund is organised.
A Facebook group called the UK and Ireland Trawlermen and Fishermen Appreciation Society, set up 'to honour all the brave men who go to Sea ( Past and present) in order to catch fish' was also making initial moves to set up a fund to support the family.
Paignton fisherman's wife Saran Stephens said: "Many of us have lost friends and family over the years and this brings it all back. It is horrendous. We want to get the ball rolling because there are people all over the UK and Ireland who want to help."
ANY donations should be forwarded to:
50 Overgang Road
Telephone: 01803 859123
An account has been set up especially for the family and any donation should be marked Sarah Jayne Fund.