A shocking tragedy hit the small fishing village of Passage East in County Waterford on Wednesday when three brothers drowned at sea.

Brothers Paul (50), Kenny (47) and Shane Bolger (45), drowned after the 18ft fishing punt they were working in overturned.

The men left from Dunmore East at around midday and the alarm was raised by a local fisherman that evening when they did not return, resulting in a prompt response from the Coast Guard, the Tramore and Dunmore East lifeboats as well as the Coast Guard Search and Rescue helicopter based at Waterford Airport.

Their bodies were found half a kilometre from the shore, in an area of water known for its difficult currents. They did have their life jackets on but unfortunately were too long in the water by the time they were recovered. It is believed that they died of Hypothermia.

The body of one of the men was airlifted to Waterford Airport by the rescue helicopter that had spotted the overturned boat, while the bodies of the other two men were later pulled from the water by the lifeboats and taken to Dunmore East.

The brothers are survived by their elderly mother Margaret, brothers Michael and Anthony, as well as sisters Paula and Linda, while three children have also lost their fathers.

On the night of the tragedy, Paula wrote on Facebook, “What a tragedy in my family today, my three brothers lost doing what they loved their whole lives, fishing for a living. I am devastated.”

Deeply shocked by the tragedy, local councillor John Carey described the full-time fishermen as “three gentlemen and very hard-working men," reports the Irish Examiner.

Parish priest Fr Brian Power also extended his sympathy to the Bolger family on behalf of the parishes of Killea, Crooke and Faithlegg. “I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to the families of the men that drowned — Paul, Shane and Kenny — and also to their mother Margaret. The community is in deep shock at the enormity of this tragedy and we wish to assure the families of our prayers and our full support at this very sad time,” the Irish Independent reports.

Waterford county councillor Pat Fitzgerald, who was at the harbour in Dunmore East as the bodies were being taken ashore, said the community was angered and saddened. “We have had more than our fair share of these deaths down here and these people are being found in situations where they are forced to go to sea with equipment that is only suitable for the [Waterford] Estuary.

“These men would have been trawler men and when their jobs disappeared they were forced back into small boats again. It is almost impossible for them to make a living; it’s a shocking state of affairs,” the Irish Examiner reveals.

Gardaí in Tramore are currently investigating the cause of the tragedy and an inquiry will also be mounted by the Marine Casualty Investigation Board.

Paul, Kenny and Shane Bolger died when their fishing boat capsizedRTE