South Scotland

Fatal ferry crash charge admitted

Scottish Viking Image copyright Iain McLellan
Image caption Miccio was on the bridge of the Scottish Viking on the day of the crash

The officer in charge of a ferry has admitted failing to change the ship's course to avoid a collision with a fishing boat in which a teenager died.

Italian seaman Pasquale Miccio, 48, was on the bridge of the Scottish Viking from Rosyth to Zeebrugge in 2010.

He failed to listen to crew warnings or use equipment to avoid hitting the Homeland off the Borders coast.

Two brothers were swept from the boat when it sank and Daniel McNeil, 16, from Tynemouth, died.

At the High Court in Glasgow, Miccio, from Sorrento, admitted failing to change course or heed warnings from crew members about the proximity of the fishing boat.

The fatal collision took place on 5 August 2010 in waters off St Abbs Head near Eyemouth.

Deckhand Daniel McNeil drowned and his brother Joseph, 20, who was skippering the vessel, was rescued.

Image copyright Iain McLellan
Image caption Miccio admitted failing to change course or heed warnings

Advocate depute Andrew Brown QC, prosecuting, told the court that after the impact both brothers managed to scramble on to the wheelhouse roof, but within seconds the boat sank.

Mr Brown said they had not had time to put their lifejackets on and two other trawlers had gone to their aid.

"They saw Joseph McNeil in the water and threw a life ring to him and he was pulled aboard," he said.

"Daniel was trying to get to the surface.

"They saw Daniel's hand and also his head came up to the surface and another fisherman Andrew Auld screamed 'Dan,' but by the time he looked back Daniel was gone."

The court heard that Daniel's body was found three months later.

'Excellent' visibility

Miccio originally faced a charge of culpable homicide, but his plea to a lesser charge was accepted by the Crown.

At the time of the collision he was in control of the ship and visibility was described as "excellent" and the sea was calm.

The court heard that crew member Domenico Furio warned Miccio three times about approaching fishing boats.

After the final warning Miccio changed course and told Mr Furio to go to port and then sounded the ferry's whistle.

Two other fishing boats also changed course to avoid the ferry, but the Homeland maintained the same course.

Mr Brown said Joseph had run to the helm to try to change direction but it had been too late.

'Heart-felt apology'

Expert witnesses said in their opinion Miccio failed to take early and substantive action to avoid the collision, despite being told of the danger of a collision by able seaman Mr Furio.

Defence QC Dorothy Bain said Miccio made a "profound and heart-felt apology" to Mr McNeil's family.

"It is recognised that the collision occurred because of omissions on Mr Miccio's part," she said.

"However, it should also be recognised that the crew of the Homeland failed to operate a proper lockout and the wheelhouse was not properly manned.

"There were omissions on the part of the crew of the Homeland."

The offence that Miccio has pleaded guilty to carries a penalty of an unlimited fine or a maximum of two years in prison.

Judge Lord Bannatyne deferred sentence on Miccio until next month and granted him bail.

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