Glasgow & West Scotland

No fatal accident inquiry into Flying Phantom tug deaths

Flying Phantom tug Image copyright PA
Image caption The Flying Phantom capsized in thick fog in 2007

A fatal accident inquiry (FAI) will not be held into the deaths of three men whose tug boat sank on the River Clyde.

The Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland, said the reasons for the Flying Phantom tragedy on 19 December 2007 had been established in recent criminal cases.

These saw tug boat owner Svitzer Marine fined £1.7m and Clydeport pay £650,000 over health and safety failings.

Stephen Humphreys, 33, Eric Blackley, 57, and Robert Cameron, 65, died when the tugboat capsized in thick fog.

Gary Aitken, head of the health and safety division of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service said: "Criminal proceedings are now at an end and the Lord Advocate has decided that a fatal accident inquiry is not required.

Image caption Eric Blackley, Robert Cameron and Stephen Humphreys died after the sinking

"We regret the passage of time since that awful night but hope that people understand that no matter how complex the circumstances or how detailed the investigation the Crown will continue to hold businesses to account for their failures to discharge their responsibilities under the Health and Safety at Work legislation to their employees and to anyone else affected by them.

"The convictions mark, in a very public way, the wrongdoing perpetrated by the companies over an extended period of time."

Mr Aitken said the decision not to hold an inquiry had been made following consultation with the families of the three men who died.

Safety regime

He added: "Systems have since been put in place to prevent a recurrence and the safety regime for towing operations is far more robust than what existed until 2007."

The Flying Phantom, which was based at Greenock, Inverclyde, sank opposite Clydebank College in West Dunbartonshire on 19 December 2007.

At the time of the accident, it had been towing the 77,000-ton Red Jasmine cargo ship, which was carrying a large load of animal feed.

Following the tugboat capsize, crewman Brian Aitchison, 37, from Coldingham, was rescued from the water after he managed to escape from the vessel's wheelhouse.

The bodies of skipper Mr Humphreys, from Greenock, Mr Cameron, from Houston in Renfrewshire, and Mr Blackley, from Gourock, were later recovered.

The tug itself was raised in a salvage operation the following month.

An inquiry by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) later concluded that the tug's towing winch had not released quickly enough, which meant it was capsized by the vessel it was pulling.

The report also highlighted failings in procedure to ensure the tug operated safely in foggy weather.

Danish firm Svitzer Marine and Clydeport were later prosecuted under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Svitzer admitted "failing to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work" of the crew.

Clydeport admitted failing to have in place an adequate contingency plan if fog was encountered, especially when a large vessel was being towed.

It also admitted failing to provide a safety management system and to appoint a suitable individual or individuals as the designated person.

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