Fishing boat that sank killing three ‘had several flaws’

James Noble died when the Ocean Way trawler capsized off the Northumberland coast. Picture: Contributed
James Noble died when the Ocean Way trawler capsized off the Northumberland coast. Picture: Contributed
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A SCOTS fishing boat which sank with the loss of three lives had several flaws which contributed to the tragedy, an investigation has found.

Fraserburgh skipper James Noble, 45 died after his trawler Ocean Way capsized off the Northumberland coast on November 2 last year.

Two Filipino trawlermen, Jhunitzquo Antonio and Michael Pulpul, were also on board the vessel at the time but their bodies were never recovered.

An investigation by the Marine Accidents Investigation Branch (MAIB) discovered that openings to allow water to drain from the deck had reduced in size over the ship’s lifetime - leading to trapped water.

The weight of the water caused the boat to be “adversely affected” in heavy seas and led to it tipping over.

Investigators have now concluded that the vessel went down “so rapidly” that the crew did not have time to don life jackets or send a distress signal.

The MAIB report also stated that if the distress beacon had the ability to transmit its location the rescue services would have arrived sooner.

Two other crew survived the accident by climbing onto the upturned hull.

The report stated: “Once out of the water the two crewmen saw the skipper and another crewman, Junito Antonio, in the water and called out to them, encouraging them to swim towards the vessel.

“However they received no response.

“There was no sign of the fifth crewman, Michael Pulpul. None of the men had managed to don lifejackets or warm clothing during the abandonment, and the two crewmen on the upturned hull were wearing only tee shirts and shorts.

“The two crewmen huddled together for warmth, and remained on the hull for about 30 minutes before the vessel began to sink by the stern, at which point they jumped into the water.

“After the vessel sank, two lifebuoys and a bottle of mineral water floated to the surface close the men.

“They tied the lifebuoys together and used the water to hydrate and clear their mouths of the diesel oil that was all around them on the surface

of the water, and they then prayed for rescue.”

Humber Coastguard picked a distress signal from the boat just before noon but the RAF helicopter was already airborne and had to refuel before setting off an hour later.

The report said that an opportunity to task a search and rescue helicopter at an earlier stage of the incident was “missed”.

And the opportunity to use passing vessels for a visual search of the area was “not taken”.

Investigators also found that a test to check the stability of the vessel had not been carried out in 10 years.

An underwater survey of the wreck found that its two life-rafts had become trapped inside the vessel during the accident and were unable to float free and inflate.

The distress beacon was also not fitted with Global Navigation Satellite System which led to a delay in confirming the vessel’s exact position.

After the vessel was located, Mr Noble was airlifted to Wansbeck Hospital but later died.

The two survivors were treated for hypothermia.

Mr Noble was engaged to be married when the tragedy struck.

His fiancee Julie Myhill spoke of her heartbreak following his passing - just seven months after they got engaged.

She described him as a “great man” and revealed that she had been sending online messages to him just hours before disaster struck.

The MAIB has made a number of safety recommendations based on the findings of the investigation including ensuring that distress beacons are fitted with GPS and reviewing coastguard training procedures.