Sunday 18 February 2018

Fishing tragedy widow disputes claim crab boat was overloaded

Greg Harkin

THE widow of one of two men who drowned last year when their boat capsized has disputed the findings of an official report into their deaths, which said the vessel was overloaded.

Edward Doherty (65), from Ross Head, Malin Head, and his nephew Robert McLaughlin (41) died after their vessel 'Jennifer' sank off Glengad on Inishowen peninsula off Donegal on November 1 last year.

Mr Doherty, from Glengad, was an experienced fisherman and had been with his nephew moving crab pots when the accident happened. His body was recovered that day. Mr McLaughlin's body was found on a beach nearby 23 days later.

A report released yesterday by the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCBI) blamed either wind or wave action, or a combination of both, for the accident.

However, the report also said the number of crab pots on board would have had a serious impact on the vessel's ability to deal with worsening weather

"The total estimated weight of pots and ropes on board the 'Jennifer' at the time of the incident can be considered to be in the region of between 915kg and 1,096kg; the equivalent of carrying between 12 and 14 extra persons aboard the 'Jennifer'," said the MCBI.

Winds of Force 6 to 8 were reported, but there were also 'eddies' -- a swirling of the sea running back in the opposite direction of the main flow of the water.

The MCBI recommended that the Minister for Transport review the Code of Practice for Fishing Vessels under 15 metres.

Last night Mr Doherty's widow Marion told the Irish Independent: "I have seen the report and I don't agree with it. They did, to be fair, include my letter to them. Eddie would never have done anything to put him or his crew in danger. He was so safety conscious."

Referring to the sections where investigators pointed to too many crab pots on the 'Jennifer' she said: "They give the impression that the boat was carrying too many pots. With Eddie's experience and his regard for safety the load would have been spread evenly, ie pots and ropes over the deck of the boat and therefore this would not have had an effect on the stability of the boat."

Mrs Doherty also disputed the weather information in the report.

The MCBI made similar recommendations in another report, issued yesterday, on the sinking of the fishing vessel 'Leim an Bhradan' off the Mayo coast on October 30 last year.

John O'Donnell and Nathan Flannery survived although they had to use a key to open a liferaft canister which had been thrown overboard with them.

The report said the crabber was hit by a five-metre-high wave and sank within five minutes. The crew didn't have time to use the VHF radio or their mobile phones or to set off an emergency positioning device.

Irish Independent

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