Ireland’s Marine Casualty Investigation Board has released the results in an investigation of a fatal accident that occurred in the country in March 2012, citing incorrectly worn life jackets as the cause of the man’s death.

The tragedy occurred on the 19th March 2012 in Ireland’s Lough Corrib in Galway County, after a boat carrying two fishermen ran into trouble. Both men on board the boat were wearing lifejackets, when their 18ft long open fishing boat was struck by a large wave in the afternoon. The boat capsized, throwing the men overboard. One of the fishermen was able to swim to a nearby island where he made an emergency distress call, while the other man’s life jacket was removed when he hit the water.

A search and rescue operation was commenced to find the missing fisherman, who unfortunately was pronounced dead after being found and airlifted to Galway University Hospital. The other fisherman was treated in hospital for several days for hypothermia.

The Marine Casualty Investigation Board made a number of observations and recommendations in their report of the accident, released in December 2012.

First of all, the board noted that both men were wearing lifejackets that were in good working order and inflated correctly. However, both of the lifejackets were found to have been adjusted incorrectly, with the waist straps in the wrong position. One of the lifejackets had no crotch scrap, and the jacket came off after the man was immersed in the water.

The fact that the men were separated from their boat after the incident and that one man had to swim to shore before being able to raise the alarm meant that there was a delay of more than an hour in alerting the relevant authorities about the incident. This delay may have been prevented had there been other means of indicating an emergency on the boat, such as a warning flare on the lifejacket or the use of a waterproof mobile phone, radio or other such communication device.

In addition, the vessel that the men were travelling on was found to not be compliant with a number of EU recreational vessel regulations.

The Marine Casualty Investigation Board emphasised the importance for all people to ensure that their life jackets are correctly worn and adjusted, and that they are inflated correctly at all times. Such simple measures may have saved a man’s life in this circumstance.


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