Highlands & Islands

CalMac ferries lifejackets were involved in fatal Louisa sinking

Louisa being raised Image copyright MAIB
Image caption The skipper and two crew of the Louisa died after the boat sank

Ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne has confirmed the lifejackets used on its vessels are of the type involved in the loss of three fishermen last year.

The Louisa sank as it lay at anchor in calm seas off Mingulay.

An investigation by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) found the lifejackets the men were wearing did not function as they should have done.

CalMac said it was seeking guidance from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) on its lifejackets.

The survival aids involved are understood to be widely used.

Skipper Paul Alliston, 42, from Lewis, and crewmen Chris Morrison, 27, from Harris, and Martin Johnstone, 29, from Halkirk, Caithness, lost their lives after abandoning the Louisa.

A third crew member survived by swimming to rocks.

Urgent review

The MAIB said the men who died in the incident were wearing approved lifejackets, but the survival aids did not work as would have been expected when the men were unconscious in the water.

It has recommended an urgent review of how lifejackets are tested

In a statement, CalMac, which operates the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Network, said "We note the findings of the MAIB report into the Louisa accident and in particular the concerns about the lifejackets used.

"Safety is our main priority and we will be reviewing, as we always do, these findings to see if there are any implications for our own safety procedures.

"We will also ask the MCA for their guidance on the issues around lifejackets and if they advise or instruct a change we will, of course, fully comply."

'Very unfortunate'

The MCA said the loss of the Louisa's skipper and two crew was a "deeply tragic incident" and "terrible loss".

A spokeswoman said: "Saving lives at sea is our highest priority, and we strive to ensure that our search and rescue techniques are continually reviewed in order to deliver an effective and efficient emergency response.

"Sadly, the MAIB report highlights a very unfortunate set of circumstances which led to this tragic incident.

"During the investigations conducted by the MAIB, we were kept well informed, and this allowed us to conduct our own preliminary investigations simultaneously.

"The MCA is continuing to collaborate with the MAIB on the contents of this report in order to address the recommendations put forward."

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