An alarm that should have alerted fishermen their boat was sinking had been disabled, according to a Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) investigation.
Three people died after the Louisa fishing boat sank off the Western Isles as the crew slept. One man managed to swim to safety.
Number of factors at play
The incident happened in April 2016, after the boat foundered near the island of Mingulay, south of Barra.
While all four men eventually woke and donned lifejackets, they couldn’t inflate the liferaft in time.
They activated the emergency radio beacon, but rescue crews arrived on the scene too late to save Martin Johnstone, Chris Morrison and skipper Paul Alliston. The body of Mr Alliston has yet to be found.
Lachlann Armstrong managed to swim to shore and hold on to rocks before being rescued by a lifeboat.
The sinking was due to the fact the vessel’s deck wash hose had been left running. It flooded the hold while the crew slept, causing the boat to founder.
The bilge alarm sounder that should have alerted the crew to the situation had been previously disconnected.
On top of this, the crew were said to be suffering from fatigue due to long working hours.
Hose caused boat to sink
Chief inspector of marine accidents Steve Clinch said: “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.”
The rescue crews also struggled to find the crew as they didn’t have personal locator beacons. The investigation also raised concerns about the effectiveness of the crew’s lifejackets.
The lifejackets are supposed to turn an unconscious person onto their back and keep their airway clear of the water. Two crew members were found face down in the water with the jackets on.