The MCIB has published its report into an incident on Galway Bay in November last year which led to the death of a young fisherman
The Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) has published its report into an incident on Galway Bay in November last year which led to the death of a young fisherman.
Tom Oliver died while working on the fishing vessel Myia with his father on 02 November 2020. The report found that several factors contributed to death of Galway Bay fisherman after he became entangled in pot rope whilst they were resetting a leader of pots. At the time of the incident, the casualty was not wearing a Personal Floatation Device (PFD).
At approximately 12.00 hrs on 2 November 2020 the father and son team left Galway on the 6 metre FV “Myia” to retrieve and reset shrimp pots off the coast of Salthill. The weather was gusty with near gale conditions. In the Galway Bay area increased from moderate Beaufort Force four north-westerly in the morning to fresh to strong around noon westerly Force five or six occasionally reached near gale Force seven in the period between 13.00 hrs and 15.00 hrs with gusts of up to 50 knots. It was mostly cloudy or overcast with frequent showers in the morning turned to persistent rain between 12.00 hrs and 15.00 hrs, with occasional heavy downpours. The sea state was estimated to have been moderate to rough with estimated significant wave height between 1.5 and 2.5 m. However, the offshore sea state was rough to very rough (4 – 6 m) with a westerly swell. Sea temperature: 11 or 12 degrees Celsius.
At approximately 13.30 hrs the men were resetting a train of pots in the area known as the “Blackrock” to the western end of Salthill, when one of the men got entangled in rope attached to the train of pots. The weight of the train of pots combined with the forward motion of the vessel quickly pulled him overboard and under the water.
Once in the water the casualty was pulled under the surface by the weight of the train of pots. Despite his best efforts, the other crew member was unable to recover him and raised the alarm to a relative by mobile phone.
The Galway RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager (LOM) was contacted by mobile phone and immediately requested activation of pagers for an immediate launch of the Inshore Lifeboat (ILB). The ILB quickly arrived on the scene and retrieved the crew member from the water. He was transferred to the ambulance on arrival at the lifeboat station and brought to Galway University Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Extract from Irish Coast Guard (IRCG) SITREP
1343 LOM GALWAY L/B ADVZ THEY GOT REPORT OF FISHING VESSEL IN DIFFICULTY OFF SALTHILL, 2 POB, NO FURTHER INFO PAGED GALWAY L/B
1348 LOM GALWAY L/B NOW ADVZ MAN OVERBOARD FROM THAT FISHING VESSEL TASKED R118, B/CAST MAYDAY RELAY
1352 CELTIC EXPLORER ON WAY
1354 R115 LANDING AT BASE, TASKED TO GALWAY AFTER REFUEL
1414 GALWAY L/B ON SCENE AND HAVE CASUALTY ON BOARD, RTNG TO BASE – NEOC ADVZ – AMBULANCE WAITING R115 AND CELTIC EXPLORER STOOD DOWN, R118 ETA
1452, GARDAI ADVZ
1419 MAYDAY RELAY CANCELLED
1434 NEOC ADVZ CASUALTY ON WAY TO HOSPITAL, R118 STOOD DOWN GALWAY L/B CLOSING See Appendix 7.4 – IRCG SITREP
In a statement given to the Gardaí immediately after the incident the second Crewmember confirmed the Casualty’s leg got snagged in the rope on the deck of the vessel and was then pulled overboard. The sides of the vessel are well protected by the pot rails which rise to approximately 1.5 m above the gunwales. As the Casualty got entangled in the shrimp pot train it is likely he went overboard crossing the low transom between the two engines where the train of pots was being fed overboard.
The weather deteriorated considerably between the time the vessel left the harbour at 12.00 hrs and the time of the incident. As seen in the Met Éireann weather report at the time of the incident there were near gale force winds, heavy rainfall, and rough seas. These conditions were extremally challenging for a vessel of this size and construction and would have led to violent movements. There are no manufacturers recommendations as to the operational limitations of this type of vessel and the manufacturing company is no longer in existence. The DoC describes the operational area as Galway Bay, no further than 5 nautical miles (NM) from a safe haven but makes no reference to weather restrictions.
There are inherent dangers involved in setting pots, particularly getting snagged in gear as the pots are released over the stern of the vessel. The violent movements of the vessel in the sea conditions at the time would have greatly increased the danger of snagging in the gear and being pulled overboard. There is no risk assessment or method statement available for this or any other type of fishing activity for this vessel. Risk assessments and/or method statements would have helped highlight the dangers surrounding this incident.
The Casualty was not wearing a PFD despite the conditions and dangers associated with this type of fishing. Being entangled between the train of pots and the boat the Casualty would have been forced under the water. Had he been wearing a PFD the buoyancy provided could have allowed the other Crewmember to detach the train of pots from the vessel and allow him to float free while still entangled in the rope. Given the depth of water involved and the layout of the train of pots it is likely that wearing a PFD would have enhanced his chances of survival.
After the Casualty entered the water the alarm was raised by a series of mobile phone calls rather than a Digital Select Calling (DSC) or Mayday call on VHF radio. The use of mobile phone to generate a distress call added some delay, however short, in the alert of the emergency services. In this case the call was made to a relative who in turn called the Lifeboat LOM who then called Valentia MRSC to activate the lifeboat crew pagers. A Mayday call over VHF radio would have been picked up immediately by Valentia MRSC leading to immediate activation of the lifeboat crew pagers.
In their examination of the events that led to the late Mr Oliver’s death the report concluded:
- The Casualty was dragged over the stern of the vessel after becoming entangled in the gear on the deck. This may have been contributed to by violent movements generated by the sea conditions while feeding out pots. In either case it would appear the vessel was undertaking an inherently dangerous task in conditions beyond the safe limits to do so.
- The use of mobile phone to generate a distress call added some delay, however short, in the alert of the emergency services. In this case the call was made to a relative who in turn called the Lifeboat LOM who then called Valentia MRSC to activate the lifeboat crew pagers. A Mayday call over VHF radio would have been picked up immediately by Valentia MRSC leading to immediate activation of the lifeboat crew pagers. Vessels of this size do not require a fixed VHF but are required to carry at least a hand-held unit. Activation of a PLB would also have triggered an instant distress call.
- The Casualty was not wearing a PFD while operating on an open deck in hazardous conditions. Wearing a suitably specified and fitted PFD would have greatly improved his chances of survival.
- The Minister for Transport should issue a Marine Notice to remind fishers of the obligation to always wear a Personal Flotation Device while working on open decks.
- The Minister for Transport should issue a Marine Notice to remind fishers of the dangers associated with snagging in gear while setting trains of pots.
- The Minister for Transport should issue a Marine Notice to encourage use of VHF radio for distress calls and point out the limitations of mobile phones for this purpose.
- The Minister for Transport should issue a Marine Notice to fishermen to know the limitations of vessels and to always be aware of weather forecasts prior to going to sea.
The full report can be accessed by clicking here.