Investigator finds ‘no merit’ in pursuing prosecution following fisherman’s death 

Owners of a vessel where a fisherman died showed a “high level of compliance” with regulations, an investigation found.

Senior maritime investigator Mark Flavell told today’s (Tuesday) fatal accident inquiry (FAI) into the death of Edison Lacaste, 45, that there was no merit in pursuing prosecutions.

Mr Lacaste, a Filipino father and husband, had been working as a deckhand on the Copious when he fell overboard in the early hours of 18th February, 2021.

It happened around 30 miles southeast of Sumburgh.

During the second day of the FAI at Lerwick Sheriff Court, Mr Flavell, who has been working for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) since 2013, gave evidence of his investigations into the death.

He concluded the facts and circumstances of the death did not merit a prosecution against the owner of the vessel, 60 North Fishing, nor its skipper, Andrew White.

Mr Flavell, a former CID detective, had looked through the ship’s risk assessments and log books and found they complied with the maritime regulations.

He said the documents showed the vessel owners and the skipper took risk assessment seriously, carried out regular reviews and considered mitigations.

“They carried out their activities with the safety of the vessel and the crew in mind,” he said.

The risk assessments included man overboard incidents, with the requirement for all crew on deck to wear life jackets.

Mr Flavell’s investigations and those of the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB), indicated Mr Lacaste fell into the North Sea after climbing on the bulwark to repair a broken hammerlock.

While there was no risk assessment in place for such a repair, Mr Flavell said it would have been “impractical and unwieldy” to produce assessments for every eventuality that could happen in a fishing vessel.

“There are myriad events that could occur during a fishing operation,” he said.

“Producing risk assessment for everyone would be a voluminous document that would be untenable and impractical.”

He said he had been no criticism to make of the owners regarding the lack of such a risk assessment.

The investigator said Mr Lacaste had taken a spontaneous decision as an experienced fisherman to climb up and fix a problem.

While such an activity had put him at risk, he said it was done under his own volition.

When asked by procurator fiscal David Glancy whether there ought to be any criticism of the owners, he said there should not.

Mr Flavell has also inspected the vessel’s logbooks and concluded emergency drills were being conducted on a regular basis following the codes of practice.

“Everything in that sense was in good order,” he said.


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