Lack of safety precautions is an all too common cause of maritime tragedies. Even when the crew of a boat are equipped, though, the worst can still happen. This was the case last year when three members of the crew of a fishing vessel off the coast of Scotland drowned in a sinking accident. Although wearing life preservers, a recent report has found that it is likely these safety devices did not perform as they were supposed to.
The Sinking Accident
The crab fishing boat, Louisa, was manned by her four-member crew and was at anchor in Mingulay Bay as the men slept overnight. The boat began taking on water in the very early hours of a Saturday morning, which woke up the crew. They attempted to inflate the life raft stored in the wheelhouse of the boat, which was still above water, but it would not inflate. It was later found that the carbon dioxide cylinder was empty. The four men tried to make the raft float somehow as their fishing vessel went under. All wore life vests.
The sole survivor of the incident reported that he decided to swim for rocks. He left the other three behind and was uncertain whether he would make it in the cold water. He managed to make it to some rocks in the bay and was rescued from there. The men who remained with the uninflated raft lost consciousness due to the cold, and although they were all wearing life preservers, drowned.
According to the results of the later investigation, there were several safety issues, beginning with the sinking of the boat. The report found that the crew failed to complete best practices for safety before going to bed that night and that the boat was in an unsafe condition. The alarm that warns of taking on water had been disabled, for instance, so the crew did not realize the danger until it was too late. The life raft and other safety equipment had not been serviced recently.
Faulty Life Jackets
One of the biggest concerns that has arisen from the safety investigation and report was that the life jackets did not perform as they should have, and that this led directly to the deaths of the three men. The men all made the right move to put on their life preservers, but after they lost consciousness from the cold, they ended up face down in the water. The life vests should have left them upright, with their faces out of the water.
The UK’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency is now urgently investigating the jackets in question as well as the procedure used to test and approve life jackets. This incident is the first they have faced that calls into question how life vests work. The concern is that there are many more people aboard ships relying on life jackets that will not save their lives if they lose consciousness in the water.
Having appropriate safety equipment in maritime situations is so important for preventing the worst tragedies. It is the responsibility of the owners of the vessels and the captains for ensuring the crew has what it needs and that the safety devices are functional and well maintained. When any of this is left undone, the results can be tragic, as they were in this instance.