The Incident

On March 27, 2019, at approximately 1225 UTC+1, Tonny Masson, the skipper and owner of the Sea Mist became entangled in a back rope and fell overboard.

There was no witness on the area of the incident to see the skipper in distress. Yet, the skipper's son who was nearby with his own fishing level, Ocean Lee, saw his father's vessel circling and called for help. To stop the fishing vessel, Ocean Lee’s skipper drove his vessel into Sea Mist on its starboard side and boarded the vessel. Once on board, he placed the engine throttle to neutral, stopped  the engine and dropped the anchor.

At 1321, Sea Mist’s skipper was recovered from the water by the crew from a Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) lifeboat. When he arrived at the hospital he was declared deceased.

The ill-fated skipper was working on his own on deck, and was not equipped with a personal flotation device. There were no barriers to separate him from his fishing gear.

Lessons Learned

The investigation resulted to possible scenarios of how the skipper lost his life:

  1. Sea Mist’s skipper drowned because he was dragged overboard by the fishing gear and was unable to free himself or survive on the surface.
  2. Sea Mist’s skipper was probably trying to free a snagged creel when he became entangled in the back rope.
  3. There was no method of separating the crew from the fishing gear on Sea Mist’s working deck. Had there been, the likelihood of this accident occurring would have been significantly reduced.
  4. Sea Mist’s skipper carried a knife and attempted to cut himself free by cutting the rope.
  5. Sea Mist’s skipper was not wearing a PFD when he entered the water. Although the circumstances of his drowning are unknown, a PFD would have increased his chances of survival.

Recommendations

Following the investigation, UK MAIB recommends the Fishing Industry Safety Group Co-ordination Group to:

  • Evaluate and, as appropriate, revise the safety guidance for single-handed fishermen provided by the MCA and Seafsh to ensure that it remains ft for purpose and readily available to fishermen.
  • Take action to improve the promulgation of the available safety guidance and safety lessons to single-handed fishermen.

Also, UK MAIB comments that

There have been 33 recorded fatalities on UK creel boats/potting vessels since the beginning of 2007, 20 of which were a result of either falling or being dragged overboard with the gear.

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