Skipper's body found in tugboat tragedy

POLICE divers yesterday recovered the body of the skipper killed along with two of his crew in the Clyde tugboat tragedy, as special prayers were said for the families of the victims.

The body of Stephen Humphreys, 33, from Greenock, was taken from the water at 10:55am yesterday, and his family was informed shortly afterwards.

Despite poor visibility underwater, search teams had already found the bodies of his colleagues on the Flying Phantom, crewman Eric Blackley, 57, of Gourock, Inverclyde, and Robert Cameron, 65, of Houston, Renfrewshire, the ship's engineer.

The families of all three men have thanked all those involved in the search-and-recovery operation, and have asked to be left to grieve in private.

A fourth crew member, Brian Aitchison, 37, from Coldingham in the Scottish Borders, was plucked from the water by Keith Russell, the operations manager of Offshore Workboats Ltd and a close friend of Mr Humphreys, shortly after the tug sank.

Yesterday, in Inverclyde, prayers were said for the families of Mr Humphreys and Mr Blackley. Mr Humphreys and his wife, Helen, a nurse, had attended the christening of their daughter, Nina, at Finnart St Paul's Church in Greenock four months ago.

Mr Humphreys also had two stepsons, Calum and Scott.

The Rev David Mills, the church's minister, said: "Everyone is devastated by what has happened and our thoughts and prayers also extend to the other families."

Prayers were also said yesterday morning at Westburn Parish Church in Greenock, where Mr Blackley was a member. His body was recovered on Saturday.

The Reverend Bill Hewitt said the whole community was "stunned" by the tragedy.

Further tributes have been paid to the men involved in the accident by their families. Mr Cameron's wife, Linda, and daughters, Lorna and Helen, said: "Bob was a much-loved husband, dad and papa, and his loss, particularly at this time of year, is deeply felt. We love and miss him and take comfort that he has now been returned to us."

The family of Mr Blackley paid tribute to a "much-loved husband and father".

Both families expressed their condolences to Mr Humphreys' family.

Clydeport say the river to Glasgow may soon be reopened on a limited basis, with traffic considered on a ship-by-ship basis. No decision on moving the tug has been taken.

The Flying Phantom, operated by Svitzer UK, was the lead tug towing the 39,738-tonne bulk carrier Red Jasmine when it got into difficulty and went down opposite Clydebank College near the mouth of the River Cart in heavy fog.

Dense fog hampered rescue attempts. At its peak, the operation involved 60 people and a dozen boats, including RNLI boats, Coastguard teams, Royal Navy and Strathclyde Police divers, along with around a dozen volunteer boatmen.

A joint investigation between Strathclyde Police and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency is ongoing and a report will be forwarded to the procurator- fiscal.

James Curry, managing director of Svitzer UK, said: "We will continue to provide as much support and assistance as we possibly can to Bob's family and to the families of Stephen and Eric.

"We will also continue to do everything we can for Brian and his family as he recovers from this terrible ordeal.

"Our investigation into the accident is ongoing and we are continuing to co-operate fully with the Marine Accident Investigation branch of the Department of Transport."

DETAILS OF CREWMAN'S RESCUE REVEALED

FURTHER details have emerged of how Brian Aitchison, the only survivor of the Flying Phantom tragedy, was rescued.

As revealed by The Scotsman, Mr Aitchison was plucked from the water by Keith Russell.

Now, details of the actions of Jamie Shorthouse, a crewman onboard the Warrior III, one of two other tugboats helping to pull the Flying Phantom's cargo, have been posted at tugtalk.co.uk, a website for those involved with tugboats.

The post states: "Jamie realised what was unfolding (and] made a call to his pal Keith to see if he could take a workboat out to see if he could locate the Phantom.

"Keith recovered a man from the river and made for shore to get him medical attention. Without the prompt actions of Keith and Jamie, in all probability the death toll would have been higher and these guys deserve the fullest praise."

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