Fisherman who fell overboard was 'not wearing life jacket'

BBC Newsline's Donna Traynor spoke to Mike Travis from the Marine Accident Investigation Branch.

A Ukrainian fisherman swept overboard to his death off the NI coast was not wearing a life jacket and had false papers, a report has said.

Nikolai Nedoliz, 35, was in the UK under a false name when the accident happened last year.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch blamed the accident on the unsafe practice of crew standing on the top rail at the back of the ship.

It said the owners had not evaluated the safety of working operations.

The incident happened as prawn nets were being wound onto a drum last January, almost 30 miles off the coast of Kilkeel, County Down.

Mr Nedoliz was standing on the edge of the boat with his back to the sea, helping prevent the lines from becoming entangled.

Kilkeel harbour The accident happened about 30 miles off the coast of Kilkell

He had fished on the ship, the Zenith, for three years and on other trawlers before that, but had only attended one day's safety training.

Mr Nedoliz was fit and hard-working but uncommunicative, although said to have spoken good English, the report said.

It said the skipper intended to guide the nets onto the drums by steering the ship's stern into them, avoiding the need for manual help that day.

He did not tell the victim, assuming he would recognise this.

Crewmen saw a large wave rising and shouted to alert Mr Nedoliz to get off the top rail.

Start Quote

Neither the dangers associated with standing on top rails, nor the crew's unpreparedness for rescuing incapacitated persons from the sea was fully recognised”

End Quote Marine Accident Investigation Branch

He looked uncomprehending at his colleagues and remained in position.

After he was washed overboard, crew threw a life ring to him but he was unable to reach it.

The fully-qualified skipper turned the boat around and positioned it alongside the victim and they unsuccessfully attempted to rescue him using a long prawn rake.

The report said: "The accident was a consequence of the unsafe practice of crew standing on the aft bulwark top rail during initial net hauling, which had become customary in favourable sea conditions.

"The vessel's owners had not carried out a safety evaluation of their working operations nor had they carried out emergency drills.

"Therefore, neither the dangers associated with standing on top rails, nor the crew's unpreparedness for rescuing incapacitated persons from the sea was fully recognised."

Crew members were not obliged to wear life jackets and the skipper condoned standing on the top rail, the report said.

Since then, all staff employed by the ship's owners have completed mandatory safety training and are not required to stand on the rail.

The investigation recommended the Maritime and Coastguard Agency strengthen its procedures for surveys of fishing vessels to ensure the effectiveness of emergency drills and crew training certificates were routinely observed by its surveyors.

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