On a calm day in Bantry Bay, Ireland, last 16 August, a fishing trip ended in death by drowning for three of the four rod anglers on board the 30-ft fibre glass motor cruiser, Castaway. But out of every tragedy at sea lessons can be learned to prevent repeat disasters and the Castaway incident is no exception. It also shows that even highly experienced mariners are not immune to unsound behaviour at sea.
One of the victims, Mike Schmidt, the Castaway’s owner, was a master mariner and his friend, Wolfgang Schroder, was also a highly experienced seafarer. The third victim, 69-year old local farmer, Richard Harman, could not swim.
At the inquest on March 2, the sole survivor, 46-year old Eddie Dziato, from Connecticut, explained that all four were forced to jump overboard when flames engulfed the vessel after a day’s fishing during which, with the exception of Mr Harman, all had been drinking beer, wine, whiskey and rum and cokes. As they headed for home about 5 p.m. they noticed the boat was taking on water and so Mr Schmidt turned on three electrical bilge pumps but within 20 minutes they saw smoke coming from behind the instrument panel in the wheelhouse. They then saw flames and insulation material begin to melt.