Search for boat sunk in Loch Awe tragedy

The empty campsite of the four men who died five years ago in a boating accident on Loch Awe. Picture: Robert Perry
The empty campsite of the four men who died five years ago in a boating accident on Loch Awe. Picture: Robert Perry
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A search is to be carried out for a boat which sank on a Highland Loch five years ago, claiming the lives of four anglers.

Organisers of Lochwatch, a volunteer rescue organisation which was set up following the tragedy at Loch Awe, Scotland’s longest loch, hope they will locate the boat with newly-donated radar equipment and “bring closure” to the families of the victims.

Chairman Iain MacKinnon said: “There are still answers to many questions about that fateful night – was the boat too small, or the engine too big for it.

“The fatal accident inquiry into their deaths could not give a definite finding into the cause of the tragedy, but the discovery of the boat might help provide the missing link.”

William Carty, 47, his brother Steven, 42, Thomas Douglas, 36, and Craig Currie, 30, all from Glasgow, fell from a small boat in the early hours of 21 March 2009.

Their boat is believed to have capsized in heavy fog as they returned from a pub on the other side of the loch.

The alarm was raised by a fifth man who had stayed behind at their campsite.

The fatal accident inquiry held at Oban Sheriff Court found that the four men had been drinking, were poorly equipped, and did not take safety precautions.

Sheriff Douglas Small heard evidence between June 2010 and January 2011 and concluded the men died due to “cold water immersion”.

He said he could not make any specific findings about what caused the incident, as the boat had not been recovered.

But the deaths, he added, might have been avoided if the men “had been wearing fully functional and properly secured and fitted life jackets”.

Lochwatch has been donated state-of-the-art radar equipment from MacQueen Bros Charitable Trust.

Mr MacKinnon said: “The sonar equipment is very sophisticated, giving images in 3D. It is able to build up pictures on the floor of the loch, picking up items such as trees, cans of oil and underwater cables.

“So it should easily locate a boat, though it may take some time because the area to search is quite large.”

He added: “The radar will hopefully be fitted this weekend and then we need to practice with it, with the manufacturer coming up to give us instructions on how to use it.

“We will then try to find the boat the men were on that night. That is the missing link.

“It would provide details to some unanswered questions, such as the actual size of the boat and its engine. The size of the boat was only a guess because it had stood on the ground for a while. The inquiry came to the conclusion it was too small for four grown men.

“But this will give us precise answers.

“The family are coming up for the fifth anniversary on 21 March and we hope to have found the boat by then.

“It is hoped it will bring some kind of conclusion to the matter. One of the relatives said it would bring some closures.

“Finding the engine would be particularly useful - then we would know if it was too heavy for the boat, contributing to its sinking.

The sheriff at the inquiry said the men might have lived if they “had taken responsibility for their own safety and had taken into account the prevailing weather conditions, the lack of visibility and potential hazards on Loch Awe before embarking in their boat onto the loch”.

Sheriff Small said the men’s deaths could have been avoided if they “had returned to the Tight Line public house to obtain a lift back to their campsite” and had phoned the emergency services from the boat in addition to their friend, Edward Colquhoun.

He also found that the men might have lived if they “had not consumed alcohol prior to taking the collective decision to take their boat onto the loch”.

The inquiry had been told a local boat was available at the scene to begin a search but a coastguard watch manager vetoed the idea because of the weather on safety grounds.

A fire rescue boat had to be sent from Renfrew to the loch, but arrived 20 minutes after the men’s last cries for help were heard.

Mr MacKinnon said Lochwatch, which has an 18ft patrol boat, can now call on nearly 100 volunteers.


Still no lifeboat plans one year after Loch Awe tragedy