Defective alarm is blamed for fishing boat tragedy

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The Independent Online

A defective alarm which failed to warn a fishing boat's crew they were taking in water was blamed yesterday for the Solway Harvester tragedy that cost seven men their lives.

The boat sank three years ago in the Irish Sea, 11 miles off the east coast of the Isle of Man, while fishing for scallops.

Yesterday, a summary report from the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) said the boat's fish room had been flooded by water draining off the main deck through open ice scuttles. But the flooding went undetected by the crew because the bilge alarm, which "was known to be defective", failed to sound a warning.

The sudden intake of water caused the trailer to capsize. A catalogue of failure and mismanagement, including the absence of emergency flares and the poor condition of life-rafts, proved fatal for the entire crew.

The skipper, Andrew Mills, 33, his brother Robin Mills, 33, their cousin David Mills, 17, Martin Milligan, 26, John Murphy, 22, David Lyons, 18, and Wesley Jolly, 17, from Whithorn, Garlieston and the Isle of Whithorn in Dumfries and Galloway, died in the tragedy, which led to legal proceedings against the owner of the boat.

Richard Gidney, a director of Jack Robinson Trawlers, is due to face charges of manslaughter of all seven crew members next month. A company employee, Douglas White, is accusing of trawling over the wreck.

Because of the legal action, the MAIB released only a summary report, focusing on safety and technical aspects. A full report will be published once the court cases in the Isle of Man are completed. A spokesman for the victims' families, the Rev Alex Currie, said: "This report should not have been published in advance of the completion of the legal proceedings."

The investigators also noted that four of thecrew had not attended mandatory basic safety courses.

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