Western Isles fisherman who lost hand was untrained

Picture: Crown Office
Picture: Crown Office
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A teenage fisherman who lost a hand during winch operations on a scallop dredger near the Western Isles was untrained, investigators have found.

Eighteen-year-old junior deckhand Seoras Macritchie was airlifted to hospital after the incident aboard the 16-metre Wanderer II in fishing grounds one mile east of the island of Wiay on 19 November, 2013.

He was taken to Uist and Barra Hospital, where his badly damaged hand was amputated.

A report published by the Marine Accident Investigations Branch, whose officers carried out a probe into the accident, said: “The junior deckhand had gone to the assistance of the relief skipper, who had been tipping the starboard dredges alone using the trawl winch’s starboard whipping drum.

“The junior deckhand used over three full turns around the whipping drum and was then attempting to surge the tipping rope by pushing against the direction of drum rotation when his hand became trapped.

“The MAIB investigation identified that the injured man was untrained in the use of whipping drums and that the vessel’s owner, who was also the boat’s regular skipper, had not fully informed the relief skipper about the crew’s experience and competency.

“The investigation also concluded that there is a lack of specific guidance or advice on the safe operation of deck machinery used on fishing vessels.”

Since the accident, the vessel’s owner has made a number of modifications to the vessel, including converting the whipping drums to enable them to be used as captive drums for the tipping operation.

Recommendations have been made to Wanderer II’s owner aimed at further improving the safety of winch operations on board.

Recommendations have also been made to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the Fishing Industry Safety Group designed to improve guidance on the safe operation of winches and other deck machinery.

Mr Macritchie of Lewis Street, Stornoway, has since passed his skipper’s ticket and hopes to go back to sea with his own boat.

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