Blog Post #1417 – Water Accumulation Cited in Boat Tragedy

Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine (Sept. 2015)

Original report by Jeff Cottrill

Flooding led to the capsizing of a fishing vessel in 2014, an accident that tossed four fishers overboard and killed one of them, according to an investigation report released by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) on August 10, 2015.

The incident occurred on June 26, 2014, near Little Port Head on the west coast of Newfoundland. Sea Serpent 25, a small fishing boat, had set sail from Frenchman’s Cove with a crew of four to catch crabs. Water began to accumulate onboard the vessel while the crew was emptying traps of the crabs they had caught. The crew tried to bail out the water with a large bucket, but could not work quickly enough, and the boat settled lower in the water. Sea Serpent lost all power and capsized at about 9:00am.

Three of the crew members managed to don person al flotation devices (PFD) following the capsizing and hung onto the boat. The fourth fisher drifter away and was later rescued while clinging onto the gas tank from the boat. At around 10:00am, one of the three remaining fishers showed no signs of life. Two patrolling Department of Fisheries and Oceans officers recovered the other two survivors.

The TSB report indicates that water ingress might have occurred through the vessel’s drain hole. The crew had drained the boat of water through the vessel’s drain hole early in the trip. “In this occurrence, it is likely that the plug, which was difficult to access, was not-reinserted after this procedure or was not re-inserted properly to create a watertight seal,” the reports says.

The crew did not notice the water buildup due to their focus on the job at hand. “This is characteristic of a psychological lack of attention, inattentional blindness or perceptual blindness, which happens when an unexpected event is not recognized, even though it is in plain sight,” the TSB writes,. “Cognitive tunnelling, a phenomenon of inattentional blindness, may have contributed to their lack of awareness.”

TSB investigators also found that Sea Serpent had not borne any lifejackets during the fatal trip and that the crew had not been wearing PFDs at the time of the capsizing.

“Of the several unsafe practices on fishing vessels that have been identified by the TSB over the years, not wearing PFDs is a significant one,” the report states. “In the fishing community, some of the reasons for resistance to PFD use include discomfort, the risk of entanglement and the perception that it is not practical or normal to wear a PFD.”

The report concludes that the vessel’s insufficient design standards, which do not allow it to remain upright when flooded, and the crew’s lack of training on radio-communication equipment contributed to the accident.

My opinion

What was the outcome of the accident? Was the captain found guilty? Let us research this and find out. I searched and searched and found only an elongated report (more in-depth) about the accident. If anyone can shed some light on the outcome (fines or charges) I would enjoy hearing from you.

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