North West Wales

Swanland: Russian crew deaths' 'misadventure'

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Media captionThe Swanland was going from Colwyn Bay to the Isle of Wight when she got into difficulty

A jury at a Caernarfon inquest has returned a verdict of misadventure on six Russian sailors who died when a cargo ship sank off the Gwynedd coast.

Only two members of the MV Swanland cargo ship's crew survived when a wave hit the ship in November 2011.

The ship was carrying limestone from Llanddulas to the Isle of Wight.

Maritime union RMT repeated its calls for those responsible to be prosecuted and for the UK government to take action to prevent it happening again.

The ship sank in 17 minutes and the crew did not muster after the alarm was sounded, reducing their chances of leaving in an orderly way.

Leonid Safonov, 50, Mikhail Starchevoy, 60, Oleg Andriets, 49, Gennadiy Meshkov, 52, Yury Shmelev, 44, and Sergey Kharchenko, 51, all died.

Order to evacuate

Prince William, who was then based at RAF Valley on Anglesey, was the co-pilot of the helicopter which rescued the ship's two survivors on a life raft.

The inquest in Caernarfon heard that Mr Safonov's body was the only one recovered and a post-mortem examination showed he had drowned.

On the second day of the inquest, the jury heard the ship's cook was not seen after the alarm, and may have never left his cabin.

Tony Brown from the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) told the jury the master could "perhaps" have given the order to evacuate earlier.

He also said an abandon ship drill was not conducted regularly.

A solicitor for the ship's owners produced a signed statement from survivor Roman Savin saying drills were regularly held, although the statement did not refer to abandon ship drills being held during the period October to November when he served on the ship for a second time.

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Image caption The wreck was later found one mile off the Welsh coast at a depth of 80 metres

However, the solicitor accepted that the crew had not mustered as they should have done in an emergency on the night the ship sank.

Coroner Dewi Pritchard Jones urged the jury to avoid making recommendations because a Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) report into the Swanland's sinking has already been carried out.

The MAIB report found a number of safety issues. A "lack of maintenance" was likely to have been a "major contributing factor" to the ship's structural failure, it said.

RMT acting general secretary Mick Cash said: "RMT will not let those responsible for tolerating and encouraging the lack of basic safety that led to the Swanland tragedy off the hook.

"A repeat of this disaster is just waiting to happen and warm words and lip service will achieve nothing.

"The only answer is decisive and hard line action."