A Fatal Accident Inquiry into the death of a Berwickshire fisherman has concluded, reports Paul Scott.

The inquiry found that on 2 May, 2021, 64-year-old Peter Gray suffered a fatal heart attack after being pulled overboard from the 7.8m vessel Saint Peter LH 22 whilst attempting to free tangled creels.

An earlier Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) report, published last year, found that Mr Gray, who was fishing 1.2nm east of Torness Point, entered the water ‘probably as a result of being caught in the backrope while shooting, and was kept afloat by a PFD’.

The single-handed creel vessel Saint Peter was fishing 1.2nm east of Torness Point when the accident occurred.

The determination by Sheriff Donald Corke states the cause of death as ‘complications of ischaemic and hypertensive heart disease and immersion in water’.

“Mr Gray was on the deck of Saint Peter attending to a tangle of creels. The creels were released into the sea. Mr Gray became caught in a bight of rope as the creels released into the sea. It tightened around his right ankle and caused him to be dragged overboard through the shooting gate,” the ruling says.

Sheriff Corke said that the accident might not have happened if deck dividers had been in use. “The Crown suggested that the use of deck dividers to keep workers clear of a running backrope is a precaution which could reasonably have been taken, and there is a real or likely possibility that, had it been taken, it might realistically have resulted in the accident causing the death being avoided.”

The sheriff’s ruling also noted that the vessel lacked a boarding ladder, and that Mr Gray was not carrying a personal locator beacon.

“The recommendation follows that fishing vessels, and in particular single-crewed vessels, should be equipped with a boarding ladder, overside tyre arrangement or other person-overboard safety measures to ensure there is a means of re-entering the vessel once a crew member has gone overboard,” his determination says.

“Secondly, since an EPIRB was fitted to the vessel, it was not a mandatory requirement for Mr Gray to carry a personal locator beacon. The vessel had its EPIRB fitted to a float-free bracket on the vessel’s wheelhouse-mounted mast. That could be manually operated whilst aboard the vessel.

“Mr Gray could have also sent a distress signal while aboard, by operating the DSC function of the vessel’s very high frequency radio. Once he went overboard, as a sole crew member not wearing a personal locator beacon, he had no means by which to raise the alarm. Time was clearly of the essence given the temperature of the water.”

The court joined with the Crown in extending sincere condolences to the family and friends of Mr Gray.

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here


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