Man who drowned off Aberdeenshire coast 'could have been saved if wearing life jacket'

The man had started fishing in grounds to the north of Macduff.
The man had started fishing in grounds to the north of Macduff.
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A fisherman who drowned after becoming entangled in his own gear could have survived if he was wearing a life jacket, an investigation has found.

Tony Masson, skipper of the Sea Mist, was dragged under water on March 27 while working with creels, used to capture shellfish, off the Aberdeenshire coast.

His empty vessel was found by his son, a fellow fisherman, who raised the alarm and later found his father's baseball cap floating in the water.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) said the presence of a "physical barrier" between the fisherman and his rope "would probably have prevented this accident".

In safety advice issued following the investigation, the MAIB said: "The skipper was working alone on deck without a life jacket or personal locator beacon.

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"Once he entered the water, he had no means of raising the alarm or remaining afloat without the need to swim.

"Without the buoyant support of a life jacket a person's survival time after sudden immersion in cold water can be measured in minutes. In this case, like many others, a life jacket might well have saved the skipper's life."

Mr Masson had begun the day fishing grounds to the north of Macduff.

At about 12.33pm, his son, the skipper of the Ocean Lee, noticed his father's vessel was circling, with no sign of his father either on the fishing boat or on the sea's surface.

He alerted the coastguard, drove his boat into Sea Mist, boarded and, assuming his father had been dragged overboard, began a search.

Mr Masson was found around an hour later following a sea and air search and taken to hospital in Aberdeen, but he was declared dead on arrival.

The investigation found: "Once he was in the water it is most likely that Sea Mist's skipper was pulled under the water by the weight of the creels and was unable to free himself and swim back to the surface before he drowned."

There have been 33 recorded fatalities on UK creel boats/potting vessels since the beginning of 2007, 20 of which were a result of either falling or being dragged overboard with fishing gear.