Highlands & Islands

Two fishermen who died in sinking off Mingulay named

Chris Morrison and Martin Johnstone Image copyright Police Scotland
Image caption Chris Morrison, left, and Martin Johnstone ended up in the water after their lifeboat failed to inflate

The two fishermen who died after the crab boat Louisa sank off the Western Isles have been named by police.

They were Chris Morrison, 27, from Leverburgh, Isle of Harris, and Martin Johnstone, 29, from Caithness.

One fisherman still missing after Saturday's incident off Mingulay was identified as skipper Paul Alliston, 42, from Lochs, Isle of Lewis.

Surviving crewman Lachlann Armstrong told how the men ended up in the water after their lifeboat failed to inflate.

Mr Armstrong, 27, eventually swam towards shore, which was within sight, and was rescued by a lifeboat.

Image caption The Louisa was believed to have started taking on water, forcing the crew to abandon the boat

The incident is now under investigation by Police Scotland and the Marine Accident and Investigation Branch (MAIB).

Ch Insp Gordon MacLeod, Area Commander for the Western Isles, said: "Our thoughts are with the loved ones of the men who sadly lost their lives as a result of this tragic incident.

"Understandably, the families involved will seek answers and we hope by carrying out a thorough investigation with the MAIB we will understand the events which lead to the vessel sinking and the loss of life."

Isle of Barra's lifeboat crew have begun searches for the missing man. An appeal has been posted on Facebook asking for volunteers from the Uists and Eriskay.

Mr Armstrong described how the sleeping crew had woken up in the early hours of Saturday to find the boat was flooding.

He said the lifeboat was in the wheelhouse, which remained above the surface for a while as the anchored boat sank.

Image copyright Murdo Maclean
Image caption Lachlan Armstrong with his sister Dana Afrin and mother Amanda Darling

"It would not inflate," he said. "We had to cut the box open with a knife and then spread the un-inflated rubber out.

"All of the four of us worked as a team together to try and make some kind of raft."

The crew used buoys and other items in an attempt to keep the raft afloat.

"The water was so cold and we were all immersed in the water," he said.

"The raft never inflated - that's the reason why we weren't out of the water. Being that cold you know the only way you can survive is to get out of the water."

'It is heartbreaking'

Mr Armstrong said the combined weight of all the men on the raft was not helping the situation and he "made the choice to try to go for land".

"I didn't know if I'd make it," he said. "I thought perhaps leaving the other two boys with the raft they'd have more of a chance to get on to the raft themselves.

"I have no idea how I found the strength to keep going."

Mr Armstrong added: "A lot went through my mind and when I did finally reach the rocks I was convinced, I was convinced, the rest of them would be OK. To hear that they were all gone - it still hasn't sunk in.

"It's hard to explain exactly how I feel - the relief at being alive but at the same time the regrets and the sympathies I have for the families involved in the incident.

"It is heartbreaking. It will never leave me, it's just so tragic."

Mr Armstrong praised the actions of the emergency services and staff at Western Isles Hospital in Stornoway, in Lewis, where he was taken.

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