September 16, 2008

Skipper Who Tried to Save Colleague is Praised


THE heroic skipper of a North Sea fishing vessel who dived into the water in a bid to save a crewman who had fallen overboard has been praised by investigators for his bravery.

However, the Deputy Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents has criticised procedures on the boat which led to the accident.

He also recognised the danger in which skipper Charles Bruce placed himself by his rescue attempt and suggested the owner, Charles's father Alistair, might wish to review the equipment on the vessel and procedures which might be adopted to make it easier to recover a person from the sea.

The tragedy happened on board the fishing vessel New Dawn, one of the stars of the current series of the BBC television show Trawlermen, as it was fishing 52 miles east of Wick on August 13.

Around 10.30pm, as they were shooting the nets, Ronaldo Benitez, 29, a Filipino who had been on the crew for two years, fell from the side of the boat. The preliminary Marine Accident Investigation Branch report said it was not possible to establish the precise circumstances of the accident, but "the crew's operational practices were deemed to be a contributory factor" .

"The vessel's skipper bravely jumped into the sea in an attempt to help his colleague, but this was not successful and the skipper began to succumb to the effects of the cold water, " the report said. "Fortunately, but after some difficulty, the remaining crew were able to recover the skipper from the water. Sadly, however, despite a concentrated search and rescue operation, the crewman was not recovered."

The report says that since the tragedy the owner has modified procedures to ensure that all crew are in positions of safety during similar operations.

Originally published by Newsquest Media Group.

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