Seventeen crew members of the Panamanian registered freighter Secil Angola are believed to have died in a sea tragedy off the Donegal coast.

The ship was travelling from Spain to Iceland carrying a cargo of salt when it began to take in water in two holds in heavy seas. The captain sent a May Day message which was picked up at Valentia. British rescue services were called in but it was too late for the crew of seventeen.

As the stricken ship went down well beyond the range of the Irish Aer Corps fleet, the RAF Rescue services were called in.

RAF Sea King Rescue helicopters have been refuelling at Knock Airport. The first Sea King reached the scene where the ship had gone down three hundred miles off the Donegal coast just after 7 am this morning. However, due to the limits of its flying capacity, it could only stay in the area for a short time requiring refuelling. Back at Connacht Airport, flight lieutenant on board the Sea King described the conditions and the challenges they encountered as they searched for survivors. No survivors were found in any of the dinghies. 

After a short search of only about forty minutes or so, we had to return to refuel back here at Connacht.

Hopes of survivors came after midday when an RAF Nimrod reported sightings of what was believed to be a number of crew members in the water. However, these hopes were dashed two hours later when a Norwegian fishing vessel picked up four bodies. Since then, seven more bodies have been sighted in the same area. 

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 22 February 1989. The reporter is Jim Fahy.