Boat tragedy: ‘alarms must be fitted’


Urgent calls for changes to the law have been made after it was revealed that a boat moored in Whitby harbour on which two fishermen died, was not fitted with a carbon monoxide detector.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch released an interim report this week as part of its investigation into the tragedy on the morning of January 15.

Fellow fishermen smashed down the doors of the scalloper, Eshcol, when the skipper, Mark Arries (26) and crewman, Edward Ide (21) were not seen in the harbour that morning.

The two men, both from Northumberland, were found dead in their bunks and the wheelhouse was full of fumes. They had died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

It appears that they had lit the grill of a gas cooker in the wheelhouse to warm up the wheelhouse area and the adjacent sleeping area.

The report also states: “Eshcol was not fitted with a carbon monoxide alarm.”

While the investigation, involving the MAIB and North Yorkshire Police, is continuing, initial findings of the inquiry have raised safety issues.

It says: “Gas cookers are designed for cooking, not domestic heating. Accommodation areas need to be heated, especially during the winter months and, for this, appropriate, purpose built heaters are required.

“Carbon monoxide alarms are not expensive and should be fitted.”

Steve Clinch, the chief inspector of Marine Accidents, added a full report will be published on completion of the investigation.

In the meantime there have been calls, in the wake of the tragedy, for regulations to be fast tracked to try and prevent similar incidents as there are different requirements for vessels according to their size.

According to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the Code of Safe Working practice states that there are ‘requirements’ for vessels between 15 and 24 metres.

They state: “Spaces containing an LPG appliance should be provided with a gas detector with an audible alarm and control unit outside the space. In sleeping quarters the alarm should be located inside the compartment.

“Carbon monoxide monitoring devices should be fitted in all compartments where LPG heating appliances are fitted.”

However, in relation to vessels under 15 metres, and the Eshcol is only a 9.95 metre scallop-dredger, it is only a recommendation.

A local skipper, who didn’t want to be named said the tragedy had prompted a lot of Whitby’s boat owners to fit detectors.

“I know you don’t have to have them but common sense tells you, if you have gas, you need a detector. A lot of people who have boats have got one. It has opened people’s eyes up obviously to the risks.”

Barry Sheerman, an MP from the All-Party Parliamentary Carbon Monoxide Group urged boat owners to fit alarms if they haven’t already done so.

He said: “Our thoughts are with the families of the victims of this awful tragedy. It’s vital the public understands that CO is a deadly gas which emanates from a number of various sources, not just domestic fires as many believe.

“This case shows that proper installation, servicing and use of appropriate products according to their instructions, wherever you are, is critical. Exhaust fumes can kill in minutes in an enclosed space like a boat cabin.

“A CO alarm must be installed on any boat with a carbon-fuel burning appliance and I urge all boat owners who do not have an alarm fitted, to do so immediately.”