A Coroner’s verdict has ruled out the involvement of a submarine in the sinking of the Bugaled Breizh. Photo: AFP
A Coroner’s Report on the sinking of the French-registered Bugaled Breizh off the coast of Cornwall seventeen-years ago has ruled out the involvement of a submarine in the incident.
Judge Nigel Lickley OC, who acted as coroner at the Inquest concluded that the vessel more than likely sunk due to the trawl gear snagging on the seabed.
The Bugaled Breizh sank on the 15 January 2004 when it was trawling off the Lizard Peninsula with the loss of all five crew. Two bodies of crewman, Pascal Le Floch (49) and skipper Yves Gloaguen (45) were recovered from the water after the sinking and brought to land by the HM Coastguard Search and Rescue helicopter. Another crew member Patrick Gloaguen (35) was recovered later during the salvage operation and brought to France, whilst the bodies of the other two crew members, Georges Lemetayer, (60), and Eric Guillamet, (42), have never been recovered.
In 2016 the French justice system closed the case, but the families of the crew believe that the tragedy was caused by a military submarine.
During the Inquest, Judge Lickley heard from the British Ministry of Defence, that although there was a NATO operation in the vicinity, none of their submarines were in the area the Bugaled Breizh was operating in, and one of their submarines, the HMS Turbulent, that had been suspected of sinking the fishing vessel was in fact in dry dock that day under repairs.
Submarines from Germany and the Netherlands were also involved in the NATO operation but neither of them could be placed in the vicinity of the Bugaled Breizh.
The inquest heard the relatively light damage to the vessel’s trawling gear was inconsistent with entanglement with a powerful military submarine.
The judge said it was “wholly fanciful” that an unknown submarine had caused the sinking.
“The Bugaled Breizh had disappeared in a few minutes leaving very little behind. I can understand how thoughts can develop afterwards,” Judge Lickley said.
“I have no doubt that the fact a submarine was seen at the scene – doing nothing other than assisting in the search – caused speculation to run as to a submarine being involved in the sinking.”
“For the avoidance of doubt, I am satisfied that no other identified Allied submarine of any type or class was in the area at the time and that includes submarines from the US,” he said.
“So far as the idea still persists today, I reject it as wholly fanciful and unfounded.”
Judge Lickley also ruled out a collision with another vessel, a hard snag or mechanical failure.
“I am satisfied the cause of the sinking was a soft snag of the trawl rig on the seabed, that in combination with other factors, caused the Bugaled Breizh to heal to port, take on water, move to starboard causing the crew quarters to flood and she sank rapidly,” he said.
He gave the cause of death for Mr Le Floch and Mr Gloaguen as drowning and recorded conclusions of accident.