A fisherman who drowned after falling overboard would have had significantly higher chances of surviving if he had been wearing a lifejacket and carrying a personal locator beacon, a report has found.
Michael Monk, 57, the owner/skipper of the single-handed creel fishing boat May C, was found face down and unconscious in the sea off Benbecula by the crew of the fishing boat Sparkling Star at around 12.30pm on July 24 2019.
They put out a Mayday then managed to get hold of Mr Monk, but could not pull him on board and instead manoeuvred him onto the walkway of a nearby fish farm cage where they started cardio-pulmonary resuscitation. However, he did not respond.
On the advice of the coastguard, the Sparkling Star’s crew took the skipper to Loch Carnan fuel jetty where an ambulance was waiting, but he could not be revived and was pronounced dead.
A Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) report said that the exact circumstances of the accident are unknown as the skipper, who could not swim, was alone on the boat.
It stated: “Nevertheless, because the boat’s outboard engine was found in the raised position, the investigation concluded that it was most likely that the skipper fell into the water while attempting to clear seaweed or some other obstruction from the propeller.
“The skipper could not swim, was probably tired and was not wearing a personal flotation device so would have been incapacitated rapidly through the effects of immersion in cold seawater, and unable to self-rescue.
“Alone and not equipped with a personal locator beacon, the skipper was also unable to raise the alarm and summon help.”
The report praised the “commendable” initiative shown by the crew of the Sparkling Star.
It concluded that if Mr Monk had been wearing his personal flotation device (PFD) and carrying his personal locator beacon (PLB) “his chances of survival would have been significantly increased”.
The report into the incident in the outer Hebrides stated: “Although the skipper had shown awareness of safe operations, his decision not to wear a PFD or carry a PLB demonstrate that he was probably unaware of the severe hazard associated with falling overboard.”
The MAIB said that given industry initiatives to increase the awareness of the importance of wearing a PFD, and the MAIB’s recommendations to improve safety guidance for lone fishermen in a previous report, it did not consider any further safety recommendations necessary for inclusion in the May C report.
Mr Monk was an experienced fisherman who had owned and operated May C for 12 years and had completed all the mandatory training required to operate a small fishing vessel, the report stated.