The father of a fisherman lost at sea told a fatal accident inquiry yesterday he hopes lessons can be learned from his son’s death – and claimed the boat owner refused to lift the vessel for reasons of “self-protection”.
Peter MacAlister, also an experienced fisherman, was speaking on the closing day of evidence at the inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of son Scott, 40.
Mr MacAlister jun, a father-of-three, died when the small prawn boat Speedwell, which he was operating single handed, sank suddenly off Easdale on April 25, 2013.
Mr MacAlister told the court that the family had made their own arrangement with a local fisherman to lift the Speedwell from its depth of 273ft and Eoghan MacLachlan, of the isle of Luing, was going to help free of charge.
He said: “The lift was fully arranged. the tides and weather were suitable, all the gear had been brought for it, it had been arranged. We had all the necessary equipment.”
Lewis Kennedy, solicitor for the family, said: “We heard evidence there was a conversation in which boat owner John Connell refused to the raising of Speedwell and he did so because you were apparently rude to him.”
Mr MacAlister said: “I asked Mr Connell why he didn’t want to salvage the boat. There was no point in being rude to him. He just said, ‘do not touch my boat’, he repeated it, ‘do not touch my boat’.
“I asked why he didn’t want us to do it. I did not know why he didn’t want the boat up, it could have made him a couple of thousand pounds in salvage money. There was no cost for the lift.
“I wasn’t happy. I couldn’t see a reason other than self protection why he wouldn’t allow us to do it.”
Mr MacAlister has campaigned relentlessly for the Speedwell to be lifted.
A naval expert earlier told the inquiry that he believed the boat sank due to a leaky hatch in the fish hold.
Mr MacAlister said: “We want to find out exactly why the boat sank. Maybe lessons can be learned about why the boat sank and that could be part of the testing of boats in the future.”
Local diver Graeme Bruce went down to the wreck but was only able to partially examine it and could not get inside.
Mr Kennedy, solicitor for the family, asked Mr MacAlister: “Do you believe Scott is still aboard the boat?”
The father said: “There is a good chance he is there. There were 28 boats out (on the day Speedwell went down) and he wasn’t found. If Scott was on the surface he would have been found, no doubt about that.”
Mr Kennedy added: “You are aware the Scottish Government stepped in and covered the £1million cost of raising the Nancy Glen, a fishing boat where two men died in a tragedy in January. But they have refused to step in and fund the raising of the Speedwell. How do you feel about that?”
He replied: “I think it is very unfair. The Speedwell is much smaller, it wouldn’t cost a quarter of what it cost to raise the Nancy Glen.
“They said it was for reasons of common decency they would raise the Nancy Glen. Where is our common decency?”
A judgement will be made at a later date.