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Boat Modifications May Have Led To Fisherman's Drowning Says MCIB Report

22nd February 2016
The MFV Our Jenna's stern area from deck level, showing the removed bulwark The MFV Our Jenna's stern area from deck level, showing the removed bulwark Photo: MCIB

#MCIB - Unapproved modifications to a lobster boat may have contributed to the loss of a crewman off Donegal last summer, according to the official report into the incident.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the man died after falling overboard from the fishing vessel off Horn Head on Tuesday 16 June.

He was one of two crew on the MFV Our Jenna, which had set out from Portnablagh that morning to haul and shoot lobster pots, as detailed in the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) report.

Sometime after baited pots had been set out ready to shoot, the skipper left his crewman, who was not wearing a personal floation device (PFD), on deck as he went to the wheelhouse to set the next waypoint and navigate to the location.

However, on arrival he looked out the wheelhouse door to see the crewman in the water off the starboard quarter, conscious and waving his arms – though he was not able to swim.

The skipper attempted a rescue with lifebuoys but the crewman was able to grasp them, prompting the skipper to bring the vessel right alongside and pass a line around the crewman's waist to try to haul him above the waterline in what were described as choppy conditions.

However, reports indicate that the crewman had lost consciousness by the time the skipper raised the alarm over VHF radio, and emergency services were unable to revive him when they reached the vessel some 45 minutes later. The cause of death was confirmed as drowning.

With no witnesses to the incident, it is not clear precisely how the crewman went overboard.

But the MCIB identified a more than two-metre opening in the transom bulwark created after the vessel's most recent Document of Compliance with the Code of Practice has been issued – a modification that would not have conformed to standards.

Similarly, rubber laid on the deck after the boat's last appraisal was of conveyer-belt grade without the same anti-slip properties as dedicated marine matting.

Any combinations of these factors could have resulted in the crewman going overboard, the report concludes.

The MCIB also noted that while not mandatory, the use of a safety harness "could well have prevented the incident from occurring", and the report recommends relevant changes to the Code of Practice.

The full MCIB report into the MFV Our Jenna incident on 15 June 2015 is attached below.

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