Fishing boat captain’s errors ‘led to diver death’

Diver Graeme Mackie''. Picture: Central Scotland News
Diver Graeme Mackie''. Picture: Central Scotland News
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THE skipper of a fishing boat is to face trial accused of a catalogue of blunders alleged to have led to a diver drowning while fishing for scallops.

Ronald MacNeil, captain of the “Rob Roy”, denies a series of failures which allegedly led to the death of diver Graeme Mackie in June 2011.

Falkirk Sheriff Court. Picture: John Devlin/TSPL

Falkirk Sheriff Court. Picture: John Devlin/TSPL

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Mr Mackie, a father-of-one from Tranent, East Lothian, lost his life during a scallop-fishing expedition in the Firth of Forth.

MacNeil, 55, faces a string of charges alleging he failed to provide proper training, super­vision and adequate safety equipment in the run-up to the tragedy on 13 June 2011.

The indictment alleges that as “the master of the Rob Roy” and the person in charge of the ­fishing expedition, he failed to ensure Mr Mackie was “suitably trained and competent” to dive on the trip.

It claims he did not ensure a stand-by diver was in place to give any necessary help to Mr Mackie while he was working.

The indictment adds that there was no equipment for monitoring the diver.

It is also alleged the skipper failed “to provide equipment which could have assisted in the recovery of Mr Mackie from the water on to the vessel, while he was working, in the event of an emergency and in consequence Graeme Mackie, whilst working as a diver on the project, entered the water, resurfaced in distress and thereafter failed to resurface whereby he drowned”.

MacNeil is further accused of failing “to ensure the project was planned, managed and conducted in a manner which protected the health and safety of all ­persons taking part in it, and particularly Graeme Mackie, now deceased, who was employed by you as a diver in ­relation to the project”.

The charges claim that the skipper failed to assess the risk the diver was exposed to, and did not ensure there were “sufficient people with suitable competence”.

The skipper is also alleged to have put another diver, Alexander Grafton, at risk by failing to provide him with suitable means of communicating with people on the boat while he was underwater.

At a pre-trial review at Falkirk Sheriff Court yesterday, ­MacNeil, from Leven, Fife, pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Defence lawyer Gordon Dewar Spence told the court that a “vast amount of evidence” had been agreed but because his client was a deep-sea fisherman he had not been ashore enough to allow time for discussions.

Sheriff Craig Caldwell continued the case to a further pre-trial hearing on 4 February, before the trial itself at a special sitting at Falkirk Sheriff Court, scheduled to last up to four weeks and beginning on 2 March.

MacNeill’s attendance was ­excused for the date set in ­February.

Sheriff Caldwell said: “The trial may not last as long as the time it has been assigned.”

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