25th May 2020
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Fisherman describes moment boat sank

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A scallop fisherman has described the moment his boat sank after hitting rocks and capsizing near West Burrafirth, resulting in the death of his fellow crewman.

Christopher Smith struggled to reach his friend Leonard Scollay when the two entered the freezing dark waters shortly before 3am on Tuesday.

The Lerwick-registered Diamond had been returning to port with engine problems when disaster struck.

Shetland Coastguard received a mayday call at 2.55am from the Diamond, reporting a position and stating they had hit rocks and were going over. No further contact was made.

Messrs Smith and Scollay were the only two people onboard.

Mr Smith said he had tried to communicate with Mr Scollay after they entered the water, urging him to swim to shore – but the distance to dry land proved to be too great for them both.

Their vessel had hit a rock which, Mr Smith said, was not marked on the vessel’s plotter.

The Aith lifeboat was scrambled and other fishing vessels attended the scene.

Mr Scollay was picked up by the fishing boat Diana Maxwell and taken to shore at West Burrafirth where he and Mr Smith was airlifted to hospital. But 40 year-old Mr Scollay, from Lerwick, was later pronounced dead.

Mr Smith was recovering at his home in Gulberwick. He said he had been “devastated” by Mr Scollay’s death.

“We hit a rock as we were coming in the voe. On the plotter that rock isn’t marked, for whatever reason I don’t know.

“As we were coming in to the voe I was heading towards the first leading light, and I was looking up the voe for the next leading light. When that turned white I started to turn to port with the autopilot. She seemed like she wasn’t turning fast enough. So I went to switch off from the autopilot to the steering wheel. And as I got the autopilot switched off I started to turn the wheel. All of a sudden within five seconds of me turning to port, it just seemed to go bang, and we hit rock.

“Within probably a minute the boat went down. I remember being in the sea and me and my companion [Leonard] were trying to swim on our backs. I was trying to get to him. But I couldn’t get to him, because when the boat went down there was a big wash that came, and I think he washed out to the side from me.”

• For full details, see this week’s Shetland Times.

About Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor has worked as a reporter since 1995, and has been at The Shetland Times since 2007, covering a wide variety of news topics. Before then he reported for other newspapers in the Highlands, where he was raised, and in Fife, where he began his career with DC Thomson. He also has experience in broadcast journalism with Grampian Television. He has lived in Shetland since 2002, where he harbours an unhealthy interest in old cars and motorbikes.

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