Fisherman made last calls from ‘unsafe’ boat

Speedwell, sank off Oban, but Scott MacAlister's body has never been recovered. Picture: Contributed
Speedwell, sank off Oban, but Scott MacAlister's body has never been recovered. Picture: Contributed
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The family of a fisherman whose last phone call home described how his boat was sinking are calling for a fatal accident inquiry into his death.

Scott MacAlister’s relatives are also pressing for the sunken vessel to be salvaged, claiming a Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) report fails to explain the full circumstances which led to his death.

Mr MacAlister, 40, was reported missing after the small trawler, Speedwell, on which he was a share fisherman, suddenly sank near Easdale island, south of Oban, on April 25 last year. His body has still not been found.

The marine investigation report stated that the boat’s owner had failed to carry out required annual self-certification safety checks on the Speedwell, which was last inspected by the Marine and Coastguard Agency (MCA) in 2009.

It added that lifesaving equipment was out of date and had not been serviced, and the boat’s bilge pump and bilge alarm were not working.

The report stated: “Speedwell probably sank as a result of water ingress through an unsealed and unsecured flush deck hatch.”

But Scott’s father, Peter MacAlister, 65, a retired boat builder and fisherman, from Oban, claimed last night that the MAIB could not possibly know what happened without lifting the vessel for a full inspection which, despite family pleas, they had failed to do.

He claimed the organisation had also fallen short of its remit by allowing the boat to go to sea without any safety checks for four years.

He recalled how Scott, from the isle of Luing, phoned his partner Tori, the mother of their son Finlay, only ten minutes before the boat sank. He then called the owner of the boat, but was connected to an answerphone.

Mr MacAlister said: “In the phonecall to Tori and in the phonecall to the owner and in a radio call to the coastguard, there were no alarms heard. If that boat was sinking, there should have been alarms going off everywhere.

“He said in his phonecall to Tori that water was going down the hatches, that the boat was sinking, and that the owner had to sort the boat out.”

Mr MacAlister added: “We have always accepted that Scott has got to carry some of the blame himself to use the boat in that condition but Scott was the crew. It should have been up to the owner to make sure the pump was working. The equipment was out of date.

“The MCA’s remit has fallen short: their remit is to check boats and make sure they are safe and that has not happened.

“The boat was at sea with equipment that wasn’t working. The lifejackets were out of date for service, so that is breaking the rules.

“The owner is supposed to do a self-certification check on the boat every year but that is four times it was missed. A copy of the check report should have to go to the MCA to say the boat has been checked and the equipment is up to date.

“The policing side of the MCA is not working. They have the power to do checks and they use it at times but this boat was left from 2009, this boat has slipped through the net. We have a lot of questions. We are calling for a fatal accident inquiry.”