Highlands & Islands

Thurso fisherman died after being dragged overboard

Creel boat North Star Image copyright MAIB
Image caption Mark Elder was a crew member on the creel boat North Star

A crewman on a creel boat died after his leg became entangled in fishing gear and he was dragged overboard, accident investigators have said.

Mark Elder, 26, from Thurso, was working on the North Star off Cape Wrath on 5 February.

A Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) report said Mr Elder's crewmates had tried to save his life after he went overboard.

But the report also said the crew was "ill-prepared" for such an emergency.

The MAIB said the accident occurred because Mr Elder was working close to running ropes while shooting creels.

Investigators said although the alarm was raised quickly, the skipper was unable to stop the vessel in time to prevent Mr Elder from being dragged overboard.

He was pulled from the water and back on to the boat about 10 minutes later. He was unconscious and unresponsive.

The rest of the crew tried to resuscitate Mr Elder for over an hour, but they were unable to revive him. The coastguard was alerted to the accident.

No knives

In the report, the MAIB said: "This is one of a number of recent accidents in which fishermen have died after becoming entangled in gear when the vessels' crews have been unable to either prevent them from going overboard or quickly recover them back on board.

"North Star's crew had not completed a practical man overboard drill during their time on board and were ill-prepared for the emergency.

"The MAIB investigation found that the vessel's documented risk controls did not reflect the operational practice on board, and that the crew underestimated the risks associated with a crewman becoming entangled in the back rope and being dragged overboard."

Shooting operations on the North Star did not follow published industry best practice to effectively physically separate the crew from the back rope and to have knives at hand to cut themselves free of the rope, the report said.

Investigators added: "In addition, North Star's owner was new to fishing vessel ownership and did not take a proactive approach to ensure regulatory compliance in respect of risk assessment review, vessel inspection and crew qualifications."

The report said the owner, Scrabster Seafoods Limited, had since installed a physical barrier to reduce the risk of crew becoming entangled in rope.

The company has also reviewed its risk assessments, ensured its crew have attended mandatory safety training, and provided personal flotation devices on board, said the MAIB.

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