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Lack of Lifejackets Instrumental in 'Castaway' Drownings - MCIB

8th June 2012
Lack of Lifejackets Instrumental in 'Castaway' Drownings - MCIB

#MCIB REPORT - The inquiry into the drowning of three men on a fishing trip off West Cork in August 2010 has concluded that their deaths could have been avoided had they been wearing lifejackets.

Wolfgang 'Mike' Schmidt (70), Richard Harmon (69) and Wolfgang Schroder (62) died near Adrigole Harbour in Bantry Bay on 16 August 2010 after they entered the water to evade a fire that broke out on board Schmidt’s motor cruiser Castaway. A fourth man, Ed Dziato (47), survived the incident.

As reported last year on, the coroner returned verdicts of accidental death due to drowning in all three cases. The inquest also heard that the cause of the fire was likely due to problems with electrical wiring on the boat.

Shipwright John Murphy, who had previously undertaken repairs on the Castaway, told the inquest that the wiring was in an untidy state, which was confirmed by Dziato.

The wiring was also reportedly connected directly to the battery without an isolation switch or fuse board, which compounded the problem when fire broke out.

All four men on board abandoned the boat without portable flotation devices, as these had been stowed forward of the wheelhouse which was quickly engulfed by the fire. An inflatable liferaft and two lifebuoys were also stowed in the same area.

The official report into the incident by the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) declared its opinion "that if all persons on board the craft had being wearing lifejackets or PFD’s at the time of entering the water, the water temperature was such that the outcome of this particular casualty would have been significantly different."

The full report is available to download as a PDF from the MCIB website HERE.

Published in MCIB
MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy is a contributor covering all things on the water, from boating and wildlife to science and business

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