Evidence of drugs or alcohol in three of six marine fatalities investigated in 2018

Marine Casualty Investigation Board note substances can affect can affect judgement and reaction time

Evidence of drug or alcohol consumption was present in three of the six deaths at sea investigated by the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) last year.

The board published seven reports into marine safety incidents in 2018. The incidents, which occurred in 2016 and 2017, resulted in a total of six fatalities and 10 injuries, according to its annual report.

Three of the toxicology reports from the coroner’s office “reflected evidence of drugs or alcohol in the casualty,” it said.

The MCIB said it is not in a position to establish if drugs or alcohol contributed to the incidents but noted the substances “can affect can affect a person’s judgement, vision, coordination and reaction times.”


It welcomed a warning from the Department of Transport reminding boat owners and marine workers that it is illegal to consume alcohol or drugs while operating or on board a vessel.

“The Board wishes to remind all vessel operators of their obligation to take personal responsibility and ensure that they are fit to undertake their planned voyage.”

One of the incidents investigated by the MCIB was the death of a fisherman who fell off the FV Kerri Heather on November 16th, 2016. The board concluded the victim was concussed or lost consciousness after he fell into the water as he did not respond to attempts by the skipper to grab him.

On November 8th, 2016 a crew member of the MFV Endurance died after becoming trapped between a net and the boat. The board said it was not possible to determine if he moved into position in error or if he was pulled there by the net.

The board said there were "a number of specific issues" which contributed to a Delta Rigid Inflatable Boat capsizing during a search and rescue operation off Foohagh Point, Co Clare on September 9th, 2016.

Three rescue personnel from the Doolin Coast Guard Unit went in the water with one, Caitríona Lucas, losing her life. The incident occurred “within a wider context of safety management in the Coast Guard as a whole,” the MCIB said.

In 2018, the board also began investigations into six incidents from last year which resulted in a total nine deaths. These include the deaths of three people who had gone out on a recreational power boat from Coonanna, Pier Co Kerry on September 30th. A Coast Guard helicopter later recovered three bodies from the water after the boat sank.

On July 17th, another power boat sank after departing from Portronan, Co Donegal. Two crew members died after apparently being washed overboard by a wave. A third crew member survived after being picked up by a fishing boat.

The board also launched investigations into the sinkings of the FV Beal Sruthan and the FV Aisling Patrick which resulted in one fatality each. It is also investigating the death of an experienced kayaker who became lodged under a log on the River Roughty in Kilgarvan, Co Kerry in November 2018.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times