Uncle and nephew 'made desperate bid to swim to safety' as boat sank 100m from Skerries shore

Uncle and nephew 'made desperate bid to swim to safety' as boat sank 100m from Skerries shore
Keith McAllister leaves the Coroners Court today. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Louise Roseingrave

A 28-year-old Dublin man working on his uncle’s fishing boat died tragically after the vessel capsized 100m from shore, Dublin Coroner’s Court has heard.

Jamie McAllister and his uncle Keith McAllister made a desperate bid to swim to safety. Skipper Keith McAllister survived the sinking and he told an inquest into his nephew’s death how his 8.6m dredging fishing vessel, the 'Shanie Boy', flipped over leaving both men submerged.

The incident happened at Skerries harbour in Co Dublin on May 26, 2017.

Jamie, who was employed as an apprentice electrician, had asked his uncle for a few days' work. The weather was sunny, the sea was calm and the tide was coming in as the pair left Skerries Harbour at 9.30am.

Giving evidence, Keith McAllister said they were dredging and emptying the contents into barrels on deck when the boat began to slow around 12.45pm.

They lifted the dredger and found it was carrying a lot of weight in the form of stones. As it came up out of the water the dredger swung to the starboard side.

The weight shifted the vessel in the water and Keith McAllister ran to the wheelhouse to try to turn the vessel but it ‘flipped over’ in a matter of seconds.

“I ran into to spin the wheel the opposite way and drive her on," he said.

"The TV flew off the wall and hit me in the face, I think it knocked me out. I came to up to my neck in water.

The (wheelhouse) door was closed and everything was jammed up against it. I went down three times to clear the way to get out the door."

When he surfaced he saw Jamie clinging to the hull and the pair decided to swim to the nearest yacht as the boat quickly began to sink.

“We tried to swim but every time I looked up we were further away from the yacht,” he said.

When the boat went down, the bubbles separated us and that was the last time I saw Jamie.

He tried to continue swimming but said the tide was against him and he grew exhausted and lost consciousness in the water.

Skerries based fireman Michael Woods witnessed the incident from the shore.

“About 1.20pm I saw a single boat roll and two heads coming up. They got away from the boat but the stern went down and one disappeared,” Mr Woods told the court.

He notified emergency services and Skerries RNLI launched immediately and rescued Keith McAllister from the water. His nephew Jamie was recovered the following morning, May 27.

Garda divers located the body in 9m of water, 60m from the site of the sinking.

A post-mortem gave the cause of death as drowning. Health and Safety Inspector Anthony Morahan noted in his report that neither man was wearing a life-jacket, though two life-jackets were available on board.

A file was sent to the Director of Public Prosecution and no prosecution was directed.

Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane returned a verdict of misadventure and noted the ‘relevant factor’ that flotation devices were not worn.

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