Accidental death verdict recorded after fisherman died of crush injury

Olounfumi Eugene McCauley (51) was killed on board Spanish-registered vessel

A file was sent to the Director of Public Prosecution in relation to the matter but no prosecution was taken in the case on health and safety grounds. File photograph:  Dara Mac Donaill

A file was sent to the Director of Public Prosecution in relation to the matter but no prosecution was taken in the case on health and safety grounds. File photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

 

A verdict of accidental death was recorded after a 51-year-old fisherman on board a vessel in West Cork was crushed following an accident involving a trawler door.

Olounfumi Eugene McCauley, who was originally from Sierra Leone but was living in Gran Canaria, passed away from injuries he incurred following an accident on the Novo Alborada fishing vessel in Castletownbere in West on June 24th, 2018.

A file was sent to the DPP in relation to the matter but no prosecution was taken in the case on health and safety grounds. The Novo Alborada is a Spanish registered vessel.

The evidence of fisherman Solomon Obery Binery was read in to evidence at Cork Coroner’s Court.

He said the trawler door was being brought on to the vessel for maintenance and inspection.

He said the plan was to use a wire to lift the door and another wire to pull it up to deck.

He said that the door slipped and fell in to the water which pulled on the combination rope with speed with Mr McCauley being hit on the arms and neck by a hook and shackle.

Health and safety inspector David Barry told Cork Coroner’s Court Mr McCauley that Mr McCauley was one of three men who were carrying out a routine inspection of the starboard trawler doors. Such an inspection is carried out every four to six weeks.

A lifting operation was in place to bring a trawler door onto the vessel. However, Mr Barry said the trawler door fell in to the sea pulling on the combined rope causing it to move at “lightning speed”. Mr McCauley was hit in the process.

Paramedics rushed to assist the fisherman and he was transferred to Cork University Hospital (CUH) for treatment. He died three days later.

Mr Barry said the hook used for lifting should not have been an open hook. He issued a recommendation that in such procedures a locked hook be used. He said Grip Latch B was also defective.

Mr Barry said that all foreign registered trawlers are required to have risk assessments.

Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster carried out a postmortem on the deceased at CUH. She said he incurred crush injuries consistent with being struck in the abdomen by a weight.

Coroner Philip Comyn said it was an “unfortunate accident” that was “in some ways preventable”.

He said that open hooks should not be used for an operation of this sort. Instead lockable hooks should be the norm.

He stated that a grip latch also opened under stress. He emphasised that there should be a system for checking latches.

He also expressed concern that foreign registered vessels often fail to have safety standards that comply with their Irish counterparts.

After a few minutes of deliberations a verdict of accidental death was recorded in the case. Mr Comyn thanked the jury for their diligent work and said that he hoped that the recommendations would be acted upon. The Coroner extended his condolences to the family. No family members were present in court.