The skipper of a boat has been sentenced to 300 hours of unpaid work after a diver died in a fishing accident. Graeme Mackie, 31, was working as a scuba diver in the Forth Estuary to collect shellfish for Ronald MacNeil when the incident happened in June 2011.
Mr Mackie, from Tranent, East Lothian, had entered the water for his first dive around 600 metres south of Methil Harbour, but resurfaced a minute later waving in distress before disappearing under the water again, Dunfermline Sheriff Court heard.
MacNeil, 55, jumped into the water and made several unsuccessful attempts to locate Mr Mackie. He sent out a mayday message, and soon after a nearby vessel found Mr Mackie lying on the river bed. He was recovered, but attempts to resuscitate him failed. A post-mortem examination later confirmed that he had drowned.
The incident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Police Scotland. They found serious safety failings in the way the dive was planned, managed and conducted. Mr Mackie, a former welder, had placed an advert online offering his services as a trainee shellfish diver, which prompted MacNeil to get in touch with him.
Mr Mackie used his own dry suit for the dive, but MacNeil supplied all the other equipment. The court was told that he was not wearing any buoyancy control device on the day of the river accident. The skipper also had no standby diver on hand in case of emergency, and when Mr Mackie got into difficulties he was unable to provide immediate assistance.
Mr MacNeil pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 6 of The Diving at Work Regulations 1997 and Section 33(1)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. He was ordered to carry out 300 hours of unpaid work and placed on a home curfew between the hours of 7 pm and 7 am for six months.
Mike Leaney, HSE principal inspector (diving), says the tragedy could have been avoided if the dive been planned properly: “Diving is a high hazard activity, but if it is conducted properly, in accordance with the regulations and guidance, the risks can be managed.”
Date Published: July 31, 2015
Author: Jonathan Brown