Inquiries advise on water safety measures


WIND OR wave action is believed to have caused the sinking of a shellfish vessel in which a fisherman lost his life off Cork harbour a year ago.

Weather also contributed to the death of a Romanian angler on Lough Mask, Co Mayo, last May, according to reports issued last evening by the Marine Casualty Investigation Board.

Crewman Gerry Hegarty of the Crosshaven-based Carraig an Iasc lost his life on January 20th, 2011, when the 6.42m shellfish vessel capsized at the mouth of Cork harbour.

The boat was coming about to reshoot lobster pots when it was hit by a wave, and listed heavily before turning 180 degrees and sinking.

The vessel owner, James Fitzgerald, and Mr Hegarty began to swim, but the crewman got into difficulties and disappeared beneath the waves, the report notes.

Mr Fitzgerald swam the 60 metres to shore, but the cliff was too high, so he swam around the outcrop to an easier ascent. He made his way across fields to raise the alarm. Mr Hegarty’s body was recovered on February 17th, 2011, at Ringabella strand at the entrance to Cork Harbour.

The investigation board recommends that the Government review and revise the stability standards for fishing vessels of this size. It also says that the Minister responsible should issue a safety notice to all skippers and owners in the fishing fleet reminding them of their legal responsibility to wear lifejackets or personal flotation devices on pain of prosecution.

In a separate report, the investigation board recommended that a safety briefing be given to all those hiring angling boats, which should include the latest weather forecast and the likely conditions to be expected during the trip.

Romanian tourist Mircea Ungur drowned on Lough Mask on May 8th, 2011, when the angling boat in which he was travelling to shore capsized. The weather when the group left Tourmakeady, Co Mayo, was force four to six from the south-southeast, which became stronger through the day.

When one angler became seasick, the guide decided to return to shore, but one of the two boats then capsized. The three occupants – two anglers in lifejackets and the guide in a flotation suit – were rescued by the three men in the second craft in very difficult conditions.

Mr Ungur had a tracheostomy tube in his throat, and the ingress of water through the tube resulted in him drowning.