New inquiry to be held into 1973 boat deaths

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The Independent Online

The families of seven fishermen who drowned when their boat was lost in a storm 27 years ago won the right yesterday to a new inquiry.

The Trident was less than two years old when it sank off Caithness on October 3, 1974 while sailing home to Peterhead from the west coast. Twelve children from seven families were left without a father.

An inquiry eight months later concluded that the boat, which had been the pride of the North-east fleet when it was built in 1973, had foundered after being hit by a series of giant waves which had been compounded by a "deficient design" in the boat.

The families believed the instability of the boat and not a freak wave was the sole reason for its loss. They have been campaigning to get the inquiry reopened ever since. Their claim was given new weight last year when the wreck of the Trident was discovered and the Marine Accident Investigation Branch uncovered evidence which may support the claim.

Yesterday, Rear Admiral John Lang, the head of the branch, said the "vital" discovery had forced the Secretary of State for Transport, Stephen Byers, to reopen the inquiry.

A spokeswoman for the families, Jeannie Ritchie, who lost her husband Alex, 35, and father, George Nicol, 56, said:"We are one step further forward in finding out the truth." Also drowned were Robert Cordiner, 36, Tom Thain, 32, James Tait, 32, Alex Summers, 38, and Alex Mair, 30.