08/08/2006

Greenhill's wheel unattended during crash

An investigation into the sinking of the Greenhill fishing trawler, which resulted in the deaths of two of its crew members, has revealed that there was no one at the wheel when the vessel crashed.

It also revealed that none of the crew were wearing life jackets at the time, which could have prevented lives from being lost.

The incident happened in January this year, when the Greenhill fishing boat hit rocks close to Ardglass in County Down.

Two crew members died during the incident.

22-year-old Donall Gibson's body was recovered shortly after the vessel sank, however, the body of his friend and colleague, 26-year-old, Conor Bogues' has never been found.

The skipper of the trawler, Conrad Zych, 27, who survived, is reported to have left his position behind the wheel, to go out on deck with his colleagues when the incident happened.

Chief Inspector Stephen Meyer, who headed up the probe into the Greenhill, said: "It's fundamental to what happened here.

"If he had been in the wheelhouse the vessel would not have run into the rocks and there wouldn`t have been an accident."

The Department of Transport`s Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB)claimed the UK fishing industry's death toll could be greatly reduced if workers following safety procedures properly.

Although all three men are reported to have got off the sinking trawler, they were not wearing lifejackets.

The crew clung to a life-raft canister until it was inflated, however it was initially opened upside down, and by the time it was turned over, both Mr Gibson and Mr Bogues had disappeared.

The report suggested they may have been struck by the canister as the raft inflated.

Mr Meyer continued: "If Northern Ireland can use this tragedy as a wake up call it would be a real step in the right direction.

"Fishing for a very long time has been the most dangerous occupation in the UK.

"It`s 100 times more dangerous than the average industry, but there`s no need for that.

"It`s not because of rough seas or ships being overwhelmed, its people not thinking through the safety issues.

"If these two issues, the wheelhouse and wearing life jackets, were to be universally achieved in the fishing industry we would instantly halve the number of deaths each year."

Later today, attempts to recover the Greenhill are to be stepped up as contractors try to raise the wreckage from the seabed.

The family of Conor Bogues will be kept informed throughout the operation.

(EF/SP)

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