Tragic Scallop dredger capsize. –

Tragic Scallop dredger capsize. Published:  22 July, 2009

Bo Fascadale

AN INVESTIGATION will try to uncover why a scallop dredger with four crew on board capsized off the west coast this week with the loss of three lives.

A fourth member of the crew of the Cumbrian-based scallop dredger, Aquila, which overturned near Bo Fascadale, one and a half miles north of Ardnamurchan Point on Monday at around 5.30pm, was picked up by a nearby yacht and is now recovering from his ordeal.

The skipper of the Aquila, 45-year-old Tony Hayton from Maryport in Cumbria, Peter Hilton and Thomas Sanderson, both aged 52 and both from the Cumbria area, died in the accident. The bodies of the three men were recovered soon after the accident but were pronounced dead on arrival at Belford Hospital, Fort William. A Maritime and Coastguard Agency spokesman confirmed that all three men had not been wearing lifejackets at the time of the accident and officers from the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) will investigate why the vessel overturned in relatively good conditions.

A search and rescue operation involving Stornoway Coastguard and a coastguard helicopter based at Stornoway got underway on Monday after a member of the public witnessed the vessel overturn at around 5pm.

The caller described how the upturned hull was visible amongst a sea of white horses towards the west of Eigg.

Mallaig lifeboat and the Kilchoan Coastguard Rescue Team were also immediately sent to the shoreline to keep a visual observation of the upturned hull.

The weather in the area at the time of accident saw south-westerly winds at force five to seven with showers and good visibility.

John McAllister of Mallaig and North-west Fishermen’s Association, who is also the Scallop Association vice chairman, said he was ‘devastated’ by the tragedy. Mr McAllister ruled out submarine snagging as a cause of the accident.

‘It’s very much a terrible tragedy,’ he said. ‘At the moment it’s much too early to speculate what went wrong, but something went wrong very, very quickly.’

A spokeswoman for the MCA said: ‘We wouldn’t like to say anything about this particular incident, it is being investigated at the moment and we do not know the cause of deaths.’

On Wednesday, the coastguard tug was ‘guarding’ the stricken Aquila while investigators from the Marine Accident Investigation Branch liaised with police.

‘Once they have concluded any work they need to do then a decision will be made about what will happen then,’ the MCA spokeswoman added.