The Marine Casualty Investigation Branch (MCIB) has released its report into the fatal incident involving the vessel Mirror of Justice in Teelin Bay, Co Donegal on 26 August, 2020.
The report says that just after 7.30pm that day, James Byrne, the 75-year-old owner and skipper of the vessel, who was fishing single-handed for squid, stopped for a final few casts.
Between 7.30pm and 8.15pm, the vessel was seen drifting in a northeasterly direction towards rocks just west of Teelin Bay. Noticing the vessel had stopped close to shore, the skipper of the Barbarella, who was fishing in the area, attempted to radio the Mirror of Justice ‘four or five times’.
At 8.14pm and after receiving no response, he called the skipper of another nearby vessel, Girl Denise. Within five or six minutes, the skipper of the Girl Denise saw that the Mirror of Justice was laying against the rocks.
On receiving this information, the skipper of the Barbarella called Malin Head Coast Guard at 8.22pm. An extensive search and rescue operation was implemented to locate Mr Byrne, of Cashel, Kilcar.
Between 9.08pm and 10.42pm, and owing to an Atlantic swell, the Mirror of Justice broke up on the rocks.
At 11.14pm, Mr Byrne’s body was found approximately 110m from the grounding position.
The MCIB report says that all those who knew Mr Byrne describe him as being a ‘fit, competent and experienced fisher, with a sound understanding of the risks involved in all fishing operations’. It goes on to say that Mr Byrne would have ‘implemented appropriate contingency actions in the event of a breakdown or stress situation’.
The report concluded that it is likely that Mr Byrne became ill or got trapped shortly after stopping his vessel in an area he was known to fish at the end of the day. As he was trapped either beneath the wheelhouse floor, or in the forepeak compartment, he was not visible to the helicopter winchman.
The MCIB report recommends that the Irish Department of Transport should intensify its efforts to promote maritime safety awareness, through a process of information and communication, and promote more effective communication between key stakeholders, as detailed in the Maritime Safety Strategy.
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.