Report on sinking of fishing boat Louisa

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The Marine Accident Investigation Branch have reported on the investigation of the foundering of the fishing vessel Louisa SY30 while at anchor off the Isle of Mingulay in the Outer Hebrides on the 9th of April 2016 resulting in three fatalities.

Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents Steve Clinch said: “The scope of this safety investigation has been necessarily broad. It has required the MAIB to raise the wreck of Louisa, and to conduct a thorough examination and a number of tests aimed at determining what caused the vessel to sink while at anchor.

“In the absence of any identified material defect, we have concluded that the vessel probably foundered as a result of its deck wash hose flooding the hold while the skipper and crew were all asleep.

“A previously disconnected bilge alarm sounder prevented them from being alerted to the flooding until just before the vessel foundered.

“These factors highlight operational deviations from best practice and an underestimation of the risks involved.

“A failure of Louisa’s liferaft to inflate and a delay in the arrival of search and rescue assets meant that, after abandoning the vessel, the skipper and crew depended on their lifejackets for survival.

“A lifejacket should turn an unconscious person onto their back and keep their airway clear of the water. It is therefore of concern that the skipper and two crew were tragically found unresponsive and face down in their lifejackets when the rescue services arrived on scene.

“The results of lifejacket trials undertaken by the MAIB and of lifejacket testing commissioned by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) following the accident strengthen that concern.

“Therefore, as a matter of urgency, I am recommending the MCA to conduct further research to confirm or otherwise the suitability of historical and extant lifejacket water performance test protocols.”

A spokesman for Louisa fishing vessel owners, Duncan and Murdo Kennedy, said: “The tragic events of 9 April 2016 resulted in the loss of three fine fisherman and our thoughts remain with the families of Martin Johnstone, Chris Morrison, Paul Alliston and surviving crew member, Lachlan Armstrong.

“We have fully cooperated with the MAIB inquiry and are committed to implementing the report’s recommendations.

“We hope the wider issues raised in the report will lead to improved safety for all those working at sea and prevent any similar incident from happening.”