Ferry captain responsible for fatal Berwickshire collision

AN Italian sailor who caused the death of a teenage fisherman off the Berwickshire coast is “profoundly sorry” for his actions, a court has heard.

AN Italian sailor who caused the death of a teenage fisherman off the Berwickshire coast is “profoundly sorry” for his actions, a court has heard.

Pasquale Miccio, 48, was in charge of the Scottish Viking ferry when it collided with the prawn fishing boat Homeland off St Abbs Head.

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The High Court in Edinburgh heard on Wednesday how the fatal collision took place on August 5, 2010.

Miccio, from Sorrento, failed to change course or heed warnings from crew members about the proximity of the vessel to his boat..

His incompetence caused Daniel McNeil,16,of Tynemouth, Tyne and Wear, to drown. Mr McNeil’s brother, Joseph, who was skipper, was rescued.

Daniel’s body was recovered three months later and he was identified by his pair of distinctive trainers.

On Wednesday, Miccio’s defence advocate Dorothy Bain QC urged judge Lord Bannatyne not to jail her client.

She told the court: “He has expressed profound and genuine remorse for what has happened.

“He is struggling to come to terms with what has happened. It is difficult to convey the level of remorse and sadness that he feels as a consequence of his actions.

“He realises that he has caused the loss of the life of a 16-year-old boy who had his entire life in front of him.”

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Miccio, who was originally charged with culpable homicide, pleaded guilty to breaching the 1995 Merchant Shipping Act at the High Court in Glasgow last month.

Sentence had been adjourned to Edinburgh so the court could obtain reports about the first offender’s character.

At the previous hearing, the court heard how the Scottish Viking had a gross tonnage of 26,904. It had an overall length of 186.46 metres.

In comparison, the Homeland was only 11 metres long and had a gross tonnage of 22.59.

The Scottish Viking was sailing between Rosyth and Zeebrugge in Belgium. It left the Scottish port at 4.13pm and collided with the Homeland at 6.46pm.

Following the impact, the two brothers managed to scramble onto the wheel house roof but within seconds the boat sank.

Prosecution lawyer Andrew Brown QC told the court that the two men hadn’t had enough time to put their life jackets on. Two other trawlers had gone to their aid.

Mr Brown said: “They saw Joseph McNeil in the water and threw a life ring to him and he was pulled aboard.

“Daniel was trying to get to the surface.

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“They saw Daniel’s hand and also his head came up to the surface and another fisherman Andrew Auld screamed ‘Dan’ but by the time he looked back Daniel was gone.”

The court also heard that at the time of the collision, Miccio was in control of the ship and visibility was described “as excellent” and the sea was calm.

The court heard that crew member Domenico Furio warned Miccio three times about approaching fishing boats.

After the final warning, Miccio changed course and told Mr Furio to go to port and then sounded the ferry’s whistle.

Two other fishing boats also changed course to avoid the ferry but the Homeland maintained the same course.

Expert witnesses concluded that Miccio was at fault.

On Wednesday, Ms Bain told the court that Miccio had been a sailor for 34 years and hadn’t ever been in trouble with the authorities.

She said that Miccio had accepted that he had caused the accident.

Ms Bain added: “Mr Miccio didn’t take sufficient and effective action to prevent the collision.

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“He failed to properly identify the risk of collision between the Scottish Viking and the Homeland.

“It is almost impossible to know what he was thinking of before the collision took place. He made an extremely serious error of judgement.”

Lord Bannatyne further deferred sentence on Miccio until Monday.

He told Daniel’s family, who were sitting in court, that the case was a complicated matter and he wanted time to consider what he should do.

The maximum prison sentence which can be imposed on Miccio is two years.

Miccio will be sentenced at the High Court in Edinburgh on Monday.

This story was taken from our sister publication, The Southern Reporter.

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