A MASSIVE rescue bid had swung into operation after five men were washed overboard from the Norwegian frigate, Bergen.
The tragedy took place 10 miles off Malin Head, Donegal, as gales lashed Britain and Ireland.
The Bergen and another Norwegian vessel had been joined in their desperate search by the Royal Navy survey ship, HMS Dalymple, Royal Navy helicopters and the crew of Portrush lifeboat.
The only thing found was an empty life raft – it was one of those washed overboard at the same time as the men.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman told the News Letter there was little hope left of finding the men alive.
In a moving editorial, the News Letter paid tribute to the coxswain and crew of Portrush lifeboat who had risked their own lives in a brave rescue bid which they would have known in their hearts did not have much chance a happy ending.
“There was no hesitation to face the perilous seas which threatened to end the search before it had begun,” said the News Letter.
“Seldom could the lifeboat have faced such danger from seas striking head-on; seldom could there have been such clear evidence of the frailty of man in combat with the wrath of nature.
“Twenty-four hours later the same handful of men, unshaven and red-eyed, were hosing down their boat that bore the scars of the sea. There was no cheering crowd, no heroes’ reception.
“To these men and the service to which they belong, the country’s gratitude is too lightly expressed.
“They are indeed the unsung heroes of the age.”