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Tributes paid to ‘the best granddad and dad’ who died after falling from boat off north-east coast

The Fishing boat Acorn INS 237 in Peterhead Harbour
Picture by Paul Glendell
The Fishing boat Acorn INS 237 in Peterhead Harbour Picture by Paul Glendell

A fisherman who died after plunging into the “freezing” North Sea has been described as “the best granddad and dad”.

The man, named locally as 45-year-old John McTaggart from Moray, died after he fell from a boat in the middle of the night around four miles east of Stonehaven.

The alarm was raised shortly before 2am yesterday, after he went overboard from the Acorn vessel.

The Coastguard search and rescue helicopter was sent from Inverness, and both the Aberdeen and RNLI lifeboats attended the scene to search for the missing man.

They were assisted by the crews of several nearby commercial boats who arrived to help after receiving mayday alerts.

But despite the lengthy and wide-scale rescue efforts Mr McTaggart, from Lossiemouth, could not be saved.

His family last night posted on social media that they were “heartbroken”.

His daughter Chelsea wrote: “I feel like I am living in the worst possible nightmare.

“My whole life he’s worked away, never did I imagine he’d never be coming home.”

She added: “Sleep tight, I’ll love you forever and ever.”

Another daughter, Caitlin Donaldson said he was “the best grandad” and “simply the best dad”.

It is understood the Inverness registered Acorn was working to support a nearby windfarm.

A police spokesman said: “Inquiries are ongoing to establish the full circumstances surrounding the incident, and a report will be submitted to the procurator fiscal.”

Yesterday afternoon, dozens of vessels could be seen resting in the calm waters of Stonehaven harbour in the sunny, warm weather.

 The Dalwhinnie crabbing boat in Stonehaven harbour. 

But Ian Matheson, skipper of the Dalwhinnie crabbing boat, said conditions were far colder when he and his crew responded to the mayday call and joined the emergency services in their search for the missing man in the early hours of yesterday morning.

Skipper Ian Matheson, aboard the Dalwhinnie crabbing boat in Stonehaven harbour. 

Mr Matheson said: “We’ve just sailed in and it’s an absolutely beautiful, lovely sunny day but last night it was freezing, it was very, very cold, only about 2C.

“It wasn’t that rough, but it was really weather for wrapping up warm.”

He added: “We were already on our way out to the fishing grounds when we heard the mayday.

“For any boat that’s in an area when a mayday goes out, everybody goes to lend a hand because regardless of people’s differences, when it comes to a mayday everyone forgets all of that.

“We went to the area, followed the instructions of the coastguard and they told us to search in a certain area, because when you’ve got so many boats involved you need someone to organise it all into some sort of coherent grid search.

“I spoke to the skipper of the vessel that lost the lad and got some directions and rough ideas.

“We discussed it with him and he took one half, we took the other half, and started searching from there.

“Then the helicopter arrived, and it was a very slick operation.

“Because we’re a crabbing boat, we’ve got great big search lights, both fixed ones and manoeuvrable ones, so we were able to do sweeps and cover a big area as we were going along.

“Any loss of life is devastating, a life is a life, it’s just not a nice thing at all.”

Fishing community’s sorrow at death

The fishing and seafaring community came together to pay tribute to Mr Mctaggart yesterday.

Representatives from both industry bodies and religious organisations joined to offer their condolences to the 45-year-old’s family.

Jimmy Buchan, the chief executive of the Scottish Seafood Association, said the death was a “tragedy”.

He added: “The loss of any life is numbing for anyone who works at sea. I just feel so sorry for the family”.

The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation’s Elspeth Macdonald, chief executive of the organisation, also offered her “thoughts and condolences” to his family at what she said was “a deeply sad time”.

North-east Scotland regional port chaplain Doug Duncan, of the Apostleship of the Sea, said he visits Stonehaven harbour on a regular basis and was “deeply distressed to hear of the death”.

Rev Duncan said: “This region has a very close-knit fishing community who work in very severe conditions in the North Sea, and our prayers and condolences go out to his family, friends and colleagues.”

In addition to police confirming that they will be carrying out inquiries to find out the full circumstances of the death, a spokesman for the Marine Accident Investigations Branch has confirmed it is also looking into the fatal incident.

He added: “We are establishing the circumstances of an incident involving a fishing vessel off the coast of Stonehaven.”

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