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Donegal Skipper May Have Become Ill or Got Trapped Below in his Own Fishing Vessel, MCIB Report Says

25th February 2022
The FV Mirror of Justice
The FV Mirror of Justice Credit: MCIB report

A 75-year old skipper may have become ill or got trapped in his own fishing vessel when finishing a day’s work close to the Donegal coast, according to the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB).

The MCIB report into the death of the skipper of the 9.2 m Teelin-based vessel Mirror of Justice on August 26th, 2020, says it would appear that this happened when the skipper was either beneath the wheelhouse floor or in the forepeak compartment as he was “not visible to a helicopter winchman”.

The Sligo-based Rescue 118 helicopter, the RNLI Arranmore Lifeboat, the Killybegs Coast Guard Delta RIB and shore crew, the Garda Síochána and a number of local vessels had been involved in the search for the skipper after his vessel was spotted drifting close to rocks west of Teelin Bay, Co Donegal.

The skipper was described as being a “fit, competent and experienced fisher, with a sound understanding of the risks involved in all fishing operations and who would have implemented appropriate contingency actions in the event of a breakdown or a distress situation”.

Due to an Atlantic swell, the vessel broke up on the rocks on which it grounded. Shortly afterwards the casualty was found floating nearby wearing flotation type oilskins but no personal flotation device (PFD).

The vessel fished for squid using rod and reel, west of Teelin Harbour, and had departed Cladnageragh at approximately 09.30 am, with an expected return time of about 8.30 pm.

The skipper had left a note for his wife to say he was going to “Green nose”, a fishing area between Slieve League and Rathlin O’Beirne, marked as “Giants-rump” on the chart, approximately 3.5 nautical miles (NM) west and along the coast from Teelin Bay.

The operation involves the use of several rods and reels and special types of lures called squid jigs. Squid are caught in areas with stony sea beds and finding an area where squid are present is a matter of trial and error or by using local knowledge. Any catch was to be sold to market.

The wreck of the FV Mirror of Justice Photo: MCIB reportThe wreck of the FV Mirror of Justice Photo: MCIB

Weather at the time was moderate occasionally fresh at first – Beaufort 4 or 5 (mean wind speed 15 – 20 knots) and occasional gusts up to 25 knots.

The winds gradually decreased during the period to light – Beaufort force 3 (mean wind speed 8 to 10 knots) by the end of the period. Wind direction was westerly and backed south-westerly later in the period.

At no time before or during the incident, were there any reports that the Skipper of the “FV Mirror of Justice” attempted to call for help either by VHF radio or by phone, which was found on his possession following recovery, the MCIB report says.

It also says he made no attempt to indicate distress with hand flares and there is also no evidence that he made any attempt to arrest the drift of the vessel by anchor or any other means.

The MCIB report recommends that the Irish Maritime Administration of the Department of Transport should intensify its efforts to promote maritime safety awareness.

It says this should be done “through a process of information and communication”, promoting “more effective communication between key stakeholders as detailed in the Maritime Safety Strategy”.

Published in MCIB, Fishing
Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Search and Rescue: True stories of Irish Air-Sea Rescues and the Loss of R116 (2022); Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004); and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010). She is also co-producer with Sarah Blake of the Doc on One "Miracle in Galway Bay" which recently won a Celtic Media Award

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