Fault in gas cooker likely cause of Galway Bay yacht explosion
Marine investigators’ report says no gas alarm on vessel which sank with two men on-board
The debris left after an explosion on a yacht on which two men were sailing close to Rinville in Galway Bay last April. Photograph: Gearóid Walsh.
A loose connection to a gas cooker has been identified as the most likely cause of an explosion which blew apart and sank a wooden yacht with two men on board in Galway Bay earlier this year.
The Marine Casualty Investigation Board inquiry into the sinking of the seven metre Pegasus on April 9th notes that there was no gas alarm on board the vessel.
The two men on board, the owner and a friend, sustained burnt hands and a cut head respectively in the incident, and managed to get into a dinghy and make for shore at Oranmore. Witnesses called an ambulance and the men were treated in hospital.
The incident occurred after the men boarded the yacht on its swinging mooring south of Galway Bay Sailing Club at Rinville. After checking the mooring chain, the two boarded the boat to have lunch.
The owner switched on the engine to charge the batteries, and went below to boil the kettle on a new gas cooker. The report says he called out to his friend in the cockpit to open the gas valve on th gas cylinder regulator in a cockpit locker.
The gas valve remained open for approximately 10 minutes before the owner managed to find a box of matches, as the electric sparking device did not have any batteries fitted, the report says.
“Upon striking a match, there was a large explosion, followed immediately by a ball of blue flame,” the report says. “The owner, his hands burnt by the fireball, was thrown away from the cooker towards the bow of the boat, and debris was thrown into the air.
“Although the owner was temporarily deafened by the explosion, he heard his friend call to him from the cockpit to stop the engine...The friend managed to close the gas valve in the cockpit, despite having been hit by falling debris and being cut on his head.”
The boat sank within minutes but both men were wearing flotation devices and were able to board a dinghy.
The report notes that a new three-burner gas cooker with grill had been installed shortly before the incident, and had been tested but not used. The only gas isolation valve was that fitted to the regulator on the cylinder.
The investigators found that if a gas alarm had been installed, it would have sounded as soon as the gas started flowing from the loose hose, and given adequate warning of a leak.
The report recommends that the Minister for Transport provide updated guidance on fitting and use of liquid petroleum gas installations on recreational craft, and should draw attention to an existing marine notice of 2002 on same, which applies to merchant and fishing vessels, pleasure and other marine craft.