Council must pay compensation for ferry injuries, court rules

Mary Heanue (60) fractured her ribs and hurt her back when vessel ran aground

A county council is two-thirds liable for €73,000 in compensation, plus €47,000 in legal costs, to be paid to a woman who fractured her ribs and hurt her back aboard a ferry which ran aground on rocks, the High Court has ruled. File photograph: Fred Tanneau/AFP/Getty Images

A county council is two-thirds liable for €73,000 in compensation, plus €47,000 in legal costs, to be paid to a woman who fractured her ribs and hurt her back aboard a ferry which ran aground on rocks, the High Court has ruled. File photograph: Fred Tanneau/AFP/Getty Images

 

A county council is two-thirds liable for €73,000 in compensation, plus €47,000 in legal costs, to be paid to a woman who fractured her ribs and hurt her back aboard a ferry which ran aground on rocks, the High Court has ruled.

Mary Heanue (60), a B&B proprietor from Inisturk, Co Mayo, was injured when she was thrown against a door aboard the ferry from Clare Island to Roonagh Pier in Co Mayo on the evening of December 20th, 2011.

Mr Justice Michael Hanna found Mayo County Council, as the local lighthouse authority, was liable for the majority of the settlement made previously with Ms Heanue.

The principal cause of the accident was a defective lighting regime on Roonagh Pier when it was dark, the judge held.

This had created an “effectively non-existent navigational aid” at night for the ferry, he said.

He apportioned one-third liability to the operator, Clare Island Ferries and Clew Bay Cruises Ltd, and its director and the ferry’s skipper, Christopher O’Grady.

Defective lighting

The judge said Mr O’Grady should have slowed down when he became aware a leading light on the pier was not working.

He should also have deployed a marine search light and a crew member as lookout outside the wheelhouse.

The judge said Mr O’Grady overshot the harbour mouth, which led to the ferry becoming impaled on rocks.

However, the maintenance of the lighting on Roonagh by the council fell short of what both Ms Heanue and the ferry company were entitled to expect, the judge said.

He said he was satisfied the absent lighting and deficient repair system presented a significant danger to the ferry as it approached Roonagh and materially contributed to the accident.