Cabin Fever on the rocks as ship goes down

RTÉ’S latest reality TV show was scuttled yesterday after Cabin Fever I hit the rocks off the Donegal coast.

It would have made great television but there was no camera crew on board the 90-foot schooner when it went aground at low tide on rocks off Tory Island, Co Donegal, and eventually broke up.

The chartered vessel issued a distress call at 1.30pm and the Arranmore Lifeboat and Aer Corps helicopter were launched.

All of the nine competitors and crew were safely lifted off the stricken vessel and taken to the island where they spent last night as programme makers, Coco Productions, considered how to re-float the series.

The producers already have a replacement vessel in Exeter lined up and a live programme, planned from Sligo on Monday night, has not yet been ruled out.

Coco’s managing director, Stuart Switzer, who flew out to the island last night to check on the competitors and crew, said the main thing was no one was hurt.

Pumps were put on the vessel, which was holed, to keep it afloat so that local boats could try and tow it from the rocks but it began to break up after an hour and a half.

Fianna Fail’s Barry Andrews said the incident raised serious questions about the wisdom of sending out inexperienced people with just two qualified sailors.

“I believe this shows that so called reality TV has gone too far, with people being asked to carry out challenges that are too dangerous,” said Mr Andrews.

Mr Switzer, dismissed the criticism, pointing out that the owner and the skipper were on board at all times.

The programme makers also pointed out two of the contestants had sailing experience; Dean Ward from Navan spent four years at sea with the Royal Navy and Andrew Fowler has represented Ireland in dingy sailing championships for the past five years.

The vessel had been checked out by officials from the Department of the Marine and all of the crew did a day’s sea survival training and a social responsibility course.

“We have taken every conceivable precaution. This is just an accident,” Mr. Switzer said.

The Marine Casualty Investigation Board is sending inspectors to the scene of the shipwreck.

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