The Marine Casualty Investigation Board has released its report into a fatal incident at Killybegs Harbour, Co Donegal on 14 March 2019.
The Casualty was a crew member of the MFV ‘Menhaden’, a 50 metre trawler that was in harbour since 12 March, due to adverse weather conditions.
On the evening of 13 March at approximately 16.00 hrs, the Casualty left the fishing vessel and went into the town to socialise.
A crew member of the Casualty’s sister vessel the MFV ‘Sea Spray’ met up with the Casualty in the Harbour Bar at approximately 22.45 hrs. They then moved to Hughie’s Bar and then on to the Cope Bar where the crew member requested a room for both of them for the night. They were allocated a room and the crewmember escorted the Casualty to the room at 00.30 hrs on the 14th March 2019 before returning to the bar. When the crewmember returned to the room at 01.15 hrs he found it empty and went to bed.
The crew member returned to his vessel on the 14th March at 10.30 hrs and was asked if the Casualty had been with him the previous night. It was then realised that the Casualty was missing and the Harbour Master was contacted.
The Harbour Master contacted the Skipper of the ‘MFV Menhaden’ requesting his attendance at the harbour office to review CCTV footage. On viewing the CCTV footage the Skipper identified the Casualty walking along the pier at 00.53 hrs.
From the CCTV footage at 00.54 hrs the Casualty can be seen climbing the gangway from the quay onto the starboard side of the ‘MFV Olgarry’ and hesitating on the deck of that vessel. He then can be seen moving aft and transiting to the port side of the ‘MFV Olgarry’ before moving out of sight behind the wheelhouse. He did not appear forward of the wheelhouse or midship where the gangway to the ‘MV Grip Transporter’ was rigged.
Weather conditions at the time, as reflected on the CCTV footage, were very poor (see Appendix 7.2 Met Éireann Weather Report) and there would have been considerable movement between the vessels.
Having reviewed the CCTV footage the Harbour Master contacted the MRSC at Malin Head who in turn tasked Killybegs Coast Guard at 12.51 hrs. The Coast Guard RIB was launched at 13.10 hrs and a shore search also commenced. At 13.25 hrs a body was sighted on the shore at the east side of the harbour. This was confirmed by the Coast Guard RIB at 13.27 hrs. At 13.50 hrs the Coast Guard shore crew arrived on-scene and contacted Ballyshannon Gardaí to request the attendance of a Garda and a doctor.
The cause of death is a matter to be determined at the Coroner’s inquest. A post mortem report indicates death due to drowning at sea. The accompanying toxicology report indicates high levels of alcohol in the Casualty’s system.
The probable cause of the Casualty occurred during the boarding between the vessels. As the Casualty was seen on the ‘MFV Olgarry’ it is concluded that the Casualty entered the water either boarding between the ‘MFV Olgarry’ and ‘MV Grip Transporter’ or when boarding between the ‘MV Grip Transporter’ and ‘MFV Menhaden’.
The gangway between the ‘MFV Olgarry’ and ‘MV Grip Transporter’ appears to have been rigged appropriately. The boarding arrangement between the ‘MV Grip Transporter’ and ‘MFV Menhaden’ was missing a gangway.
The requirement for gangways on fishing vessels of the sizes and year of construction included is set out in S.I. No. 325/1999-Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Fishing Vessels) Regulations, 1999 is as follows: ‘An accommodation ladder, gangway or other similar equipment providing an appropriate, safe means of boarding the vessel shall be provided.’
On this basis, greater dexterity would have been required when boarding between the ‘MV Grip Transporter’ and ‘MFV Menhaden’.
The CCTV suggests that the Casualty did not use the gangway rigged between the ‘MV Grip Transporter’ and ‘MFV Menhaden’.
On the basis of the above, the MCIB report concludes that the Casualty most likely fell into the water when transiting between the ‘MFV Olgarry’ and the ‘MV Grip Transporter’.
Contributory factors included alcohol consumption, weather conditions and the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE).
The boarding arrangements between the ‘MV Grip Transporter’ and ‘MFV Menhaden’ did not have a gangway.
To read the full report click here.