Eire’s Marine Casualty Investigation Board has released reports on two separate incidents of note: A fatal accident in which a fisherman became separated from his lifejacket after his small boat came to grief in Lough Corrib, County Galway and the sinking of MFV Jeanette Roberta off Glandore Harbour, County Cork.
In the first case on 19th March 2012 two men, who were both wearing life jackets, went angling in an 18ft open boat on Lough Corrib. During the afternoon the boat was struck by a large wave and both men were thrown into the water and were separated from the boat. One man swam to an island and eventually raised the alarm. The other man became separated from his lifejacket.
Both men were airlifted to Galway University Hospital by helicopter, one man was pronounced dead at the hospital and the other was reported suffering from hypothermia.
Although these were leisure fishermen aspects of the incident, including improperly adjusted lifejacket straps may have wider application.
Among MCIB’s observations are:
- The revolving seat used by one of the men meant both his height above the gunwale and his position right forward may have had an influence on the handling and stability of the boat. Had this man been sitting lower down and amidships his chances of being thrown overboard when the boat heeled would have been significantly decreased.
- Personal Floatation Devices (PFDs) were worn by both men, they were in good condition and both inflated correctly.
- The PFD on one man came off after immersion despite a crotch strap being fitted. The other man experienced difficulty in keeping his on, it had no crotch strap. Both jackets were found to have incorrectly adjusted waist straps.
- The Kill Cord on the engine was not used and once in the water the men were separated from their boat. The consequence of this was a long period of immersion in cold water which led to the death of one of the men and hypothermia of the other.
- There was a delay of over an hour in raising the alarm due to separation from the boat, lack of recognised means of indicating distress and the failure of a mobile phone after it was immersed in the water.
- It appears that the vessel was not compliant with EU Recreational Craft Directive
In the second incident MFV Jeanette Roberta encountered electrical and navigation equipment problems and steamed onto and stranded on the south-eastern side of Adam’s Island at the entrance to the harbour. The vessel was holed and making water and a Mayday was issued at 14:32hrs.
A further Mayday was issued, the vessel’s 6 – person Inflatable Liferaft was deployed and the crew abandoned the vessel and boarded the liferaft. The vessel sank in some 15m depth of water shortly afterward and the crew were picked up out of the liferaft by MFV “Sally Pamela” at 14:50hrs and landed safely ashore at Union Hall at 16:23hrs. All three crew members were uninjured
and did not require medical assistance. No pollution resulted other than miscellaneous floating debris, fishboxes and so on.
MCIB’s analysis identified good and bad points about the incident:
The two main contributory factors to this casualty appear to be both Auto-Pilot centred but separate, for example a ‘sticky’ solenoid problem encountered when changing over from auto to manual operation and the phenomenon where the vessel would suddenly and without warning alter course and describe a circle.
In the absence of the vessel it is impossible at this juncture to pursue these matters to a conclusion. They had manifested themselves previously albeit separately and the condition was known to the Owner/Skipper. Notwithstanding that, repairs were undertaken on various occasions to address the issues with what at the time appeared to have been favourable results, the fact that the problems remained, even randomly, was accepted and the vessel continued to operate in that condition. This condition had ramifications for seaworthiness and crew safety.
The vessel should have been withdrawn from service until these problems had been addressed and eliminated. If the permanent solution required existing equipment to be removed and replaced with newer equipment, then that is the course of action that should have been followed. On this occasion, the three crew were fortunate that the stranding occurred in daylight hours and that
another vessel was relatively close at hand to take them off.
On the positive side:
• All three crew wore their PFDs as a matter of course in the course of their working day.
• They all knew where their lifejackets were stowed.
• They were familiar with the drill for successfully launching the 6-person Inflatable Liferaft.