Death prompts call for new vessels rule

by Sylvia Pownall

The death of a Skerries fisherman has led the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) to call for a campaign to highlight the danger of drug and alcohol use at sea.

The recommendation follows MCIB’s investigation into the death of  who drowned when FV Shanie Boy sank off the coast of Skerries in May 2017.

The discovery of cocaine and cannabis in the young crewman’s system prompted the board to urge Transport Minister Shane Ross to launch a safety campaign.

MCIB wants standards for small fishing vessels updated and methods explored “to prevent cabling from slipping down from the gantries of similar craft engaged in fishing using dredges”.

Jamie (28), who was out fishing with his uncle Keith, was not wearing a life jacket when his body was recovered from the water – a legal requirement on fishing vessels.

Keith McAllister had 30 years of experience as a fisherman and the pair had been fishing for razor clams west of Perch Rock, about 100m from the shore, on May 26 last year.

The MCIB report said the vessel capsized quickly after losing stability when a dredge slipped as it was being hoisted on a gantry and became entangled on the starboard side.

Keith McAllister became trapped in the wheelhouse by the rising water as he tried to correct the vessel but eventually managed to force its door open.

The report said both men tried to strip off their oilskins and boots and attempted to swim away from the upturned hull but were dragged underwater as the boat sank.

The skipper was struck on the head by “flying equipment” but on the third attempt managed to surface and was rescued “barely conscious” by the Skerries inshore lifeboat.

Jamie’s body was recovered from the water the next day after a search by the coastguard, the Air Corps, two Irish Navy ships, RNLI lifeboats and local fishing and pleasure boats and garda divers.

Sea conditions at the time of the accident were “near calm to smooth” while weather and visibility were also good.

The MCIB said it was possible that the victim, who was not an experienced fisherman, became entangled in the vessel as it sank.

In its report, inspectors said the effect, if any, of the drug on the victim was a matter to be determined at inquest. But they said the use of drugs was known to have an impact on cognitive function.

They also concluded that the boat, which was licenced as seaworthy, rapidly lost stability after the dredge filled with stones, suggesting “that there was little reserve of stability in the first place”.

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