Safety warning following probe into boat death

BOAT skippers and operators of recreational craft were reminded of the importance of taking due regard of weather and sea conditions after a Marine Casualty Investigation Report showed how a man died off a west Cork Island after a minor boating trip went wrong.

In the early hours of December 5 2008, ten people set off from Colla Pier near Schull in County Cork for Coney Island where they planned to stay the weekend. They were in an open six metre boat powered by a 30 HP outboard engine and were due to travel a kilometre off the coast.

The investigating team were informed how boat owner Michael McGill travelled to Cork Airport to collect his nine passengers who had travelled to Ireland from Geneva. En route to west Cork they stopped for dinner, arriving at Colla Pier for the 10-minute crossing at 00.30am. They were all offered oilskins, wellingtons and lifejackets, but most refused the lifejackets.

A number of the crew, who had travelled to the island before, said although it was windy, it was “ok to travel”. As they approached Coney Island the engine stalled, the boat began to drift into the channel and Mr McGill anchored the boat to change the engine. As the wind grew the new engine proved equally ineffective and the boat capsized. Most of the crew swum to the shore or clung to the boat but crew member Alain Adler drifted out to sea. Adler died later in Bantry General Hospital from acute cardio-respiratory failure and drowning associated with hypothermia.

The MCIR found the death was the accumulation of several poor decisions which resulted in the capsize of the vessel.

Meanwhile, a separate board investigation said “no direct cause” was established for the deaths of two Donegal fisherman who drowned two years ago.

There were the only crew aboard the Strath Marie fishing boat, a nine-metre half-decker which sank off Inishowen Head on March 14, 2008.

Francis McDaid, 68, and Daniel McDaid, 70, had left Bunagee Pier, Culdaff around 8.45am to lift strings of pots. Weather conditions were Force 3 to 4, slight to moderate. The alarm was raised at 5.17pm, through a 999 call, when the boat did not return.

Portrush Lifeboat recovered the first body at 6.13pm and the second was found by the Greencastle Coastguard RIB unit at 8.38pm.

Neither casualty had been wearing buoyancy aids.

Parts of the wreck were later examined. Some family members have suggested the investigation was “inadequate” but the MCIB refused the claim.

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