Nine months before fire probe results known

THE exact details that led to the deaths of three men in Monday’s West Cork pleasure cruiser blaze are unlikely to be known until spring next year at the earliest.

The Marine Casualty Investigation Board has confirmed that a nine-month deadline has been placed on its report into the fatal boat incident at Bantry Bay, which began yesterday when an unnamed inspector was appointed to the case.

A spokesman for the expert group explained that in line with common practice no finalised conclusions will be published until at least May next year in order to ensure all aspects of the tragedy are fully examined.

This deadline could be extended, depending on whether further specialist advice is needed.

A separate Garda investigation into how the deadly fire started and why it spread along the 25-feet cruiser so quickly has also been launched and is expected to be concluded within a shorter timeframe.

In order for investigators to reveal what happened on The Castaway cruiser, which was owned by retired German sea merchant Mike Schmidt, the wreckage will be dredged from Bantry Bay over the coming days so a full technical examination can take place.

Since July 2002 the Marine Casualty Investigation Board has published 130 separate reports on fatal incidents along the Irish coastline.

Of these, the case which most closely resembles the initial theories on what happened in Bantry Bay on Monday afternoon is the sinking of the Santa Christina pleasure cruiser after a gas explosion onboard the boat in September 2002.

That investigation, which took a year to complete, was launched after the coastguard were alerted to an incident off the Old Harbour at Lanesborough in Co Roscommon.

While two passengers onboard the 37ft boat suffered injuries, no one was killed in the incident.

Although no evidence of “residue gas” was located in the immediate aftermath of the explosion on the Santa Christina, investigators examining the wreckage noted that the vessel had no gas supervision device.

They concluded that the explosion took place “because the cooker was left on and the gas exploded when the motor was switched on”.

A total of 13 of the group’s investigations are still ongoing, including the sinking of the Kindred Star II off the east coast of Cork in April and a fatal incident at Castletownsend in Co Cork in May.

Four further investigations in which a person lost their life are also continuing.

The oldest outstanding case still being examined by the group relates toa man who fell overboard on the Alma Amy trawler while fishing off Co Wexford in October 2007.

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