Specialist divers and a lifting barge yesterday brought the Nancy Glen to the surface following an intensive all-night salvage operation, three months after the boat went down near Tarbert.
The bodies of skipper Duncan MacDougall, 46, and Przemek Krawczyk, 38, both from Tarbert, are believed to be trapped inside the vessel’s wreck. Both men were fathers with young families.
A third crew member, John Millar, 34, also from Tarbert, was rescued by a passing vessel after the prawn trawler capsized, sparking a major search operation by police and coastguard teams as well as several local fishing boats.
A specialist barge was brought to the loch on Wednesday. A Crown Office spokesman said: “Salvage teams who have been on board the vessel have described finding human remains.”
Although the 40 foot-long vessel was winched hundreds of feet up to the surface of the loch, specialists have to determine that the structure is stable before entering it.
The Crown Office yesterday added: “The families are being kept up to date with the progress being made. It is anticipated that the teams will be able to continue their work tomorrow.”
The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) had already conducted a seabed survey of the stricken ship, using a remotely operated vehicle and the Northern Lighthouse Board vessel, NLV Pharos, which used multi-beam sonar scans to determine its location. The MAIB said it was unable to raise the boat from the seabed.
After appeals by family members and community in Tarbert, the Scottish Government stepped in to work with salvage specialists and the relatives of the crewmen to support efforts to retrieve the bodies of Mr MacDougall and Mr Krawczyk.
Fergus Ewing, the fisheries secretary, said it was “only right” that the government stepped in following a tragedy that saw the boat lost “within sight of the family homes and the wider community”.
However, as preparatory work began, the scale of the logistical challenge became clear.
After the vessel capsized on 18 January, it is understood it was left lying at an angle and stuck in mud at the bottom of the loch at a depth of more than 459 feet below the surface.
In recent weeks, debris and ropes have been cleared from the seabed around the Nancy Glen to allow the lifting operation to take place.
The Scottish Government described it as a “complex task with a number of technical challenges” and stressed beforehand there had been no guarantee of a successful outcome.
The Clyde Fishermen’s Association and its associated trust raised nearly £300,000 through crowdfunding to go to the families of those affected.
Its Nancy Glen Appeal was supported by a range of public figures, including Dame Katherine Grainger, Britain’s most decorated female Olympian
The entire recovery effort is estimated to cost around £1m.
The MAIB said it is continuing with its investigation into the accident, and is in the process of “assessing the extensive quantity of data collected” during its survey in February.