Watchkeeper ‘distracted’ by phone before fatal boat collision in Shoreham

The James 2 being recovered. Credit: Marine Accident Investigation Branch
The James 2 being recovered. Credit: Marine Accident Investigation Branch

A lone watchkeeper was ‘distracted’ by social media on his mobile just before his boat collided with another in Shoreham, resulting in three deaths, a report has found.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch has released a report into the late-night collision between a commercial fishing vessel, Vertrouwen, and a motor cruiser, on which four men were rod fishing for mackerel, on Sunday, August, 6, 2017.

Fishing vessel Vertrouwen. Credit: Marine Accident Investigation Branch

Fishing vessel Vertrouwen. Credit: Marine Accident Investigation Branch

Traiam Dumitrache, 50, from London; Mircea Ilie, 40, of Elm Grove, Brighton and Irinel Popovici, 41, of Barcombe Road, Brighton, drowned after their boat, James 2, was swamped by the wash and sank.

A fourth man was rescued by commercial fishermen after clinging to a buoy for more than five hours.

The report concluded that an effective lookout was not being kept on either vessel.

“Neither vessel was maintaining a proper lookout by sight and hearing,” the report states.

“Vertrouwen’s skipper was a lone watchkeeper and he allowed himself to become distracted by using his mobile phone and working on his laptop computer.

“The sea anglers were focused on enjoying a social evening fishing and did not keep a lookout.”

None of the sea anglers on James 2, who had shared a drink of whiskey, were wearing lifejackets and the group were ‘ill-prepared to make a short trip offshore at night’, the report found.

The collision occurred because Vertrouwen’s lone watchkeeper did not see James 2 either visually or by radar and, by the time the sea anglers realised they were in danger of being run down, they were unable to get out of the way, the report found.

While visibility was very good and the sea was calm, the report stated: “James 2 did not have all the navigation lights required to operate at sea at night and, as a result, it is likely that the motor cruiser was not visible.”

The report added: “Had the four sea anglers been able to raise the alarm and been wearing lifejackets or buoyancy aids, their chances of survival would have been significantly improved.”

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch has issued a safety flyer to the fishing industry highlighting the importance of maintaining a proper lookout and avoiding wheelhouse distractions.