Lessons need to be learned from death of teen, say investigators

INVESTIGATORS are calling for lessons to be learned from the tragic death of a teenage fisherman.

Dan McNeill died after a passenger ferry crashed into the North Shields-based fishing vessel Homeland in August last year.

The 16-year-old, of Tynemouth, and his brother Joseph, 20, were thrown into the North Sea by the collision with the Scottish Viking five miles off the coast at Eyemouth, Berwickshire.

Joseph was rescued by a nearby boat but Dan drowned, and his body was not recovered until months later.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch has now ruled, in a report published last week, that the crew of the ferry, en route from Rosyth in Fife to Zeebrugge in Belgium, were at fault for “complacency and lack of precautionary thought”.

The report adds: “Those responsible for the watch on either vessel had not taken sufficient action to determine that a risk of collision existed.”

It reveals that Dan and Joseph had switched on the boat’s autopilot while mending a torn net, only occasionally checking the horizon for any potential danger, so they were unaware of the impending collision until they were alerted – too late – by two loud whistles and a radio transmission.

After the collision, the pair were unable to launch their life-raft or put on lifejackets before the Homeland sank.

The investigators conclude: “The Scottish Viking was the give-way vessel, and although her watchkeeper had sighted the fishing vessels, he did not take early and sufficient action to avoid a collision.”

Among the safety lessons they say need to be learned are that crews should always maintain a proper lookout, wheelhouses should not be left unattended at any time, radar should be set at a range of more than a mile and a half, as had been the case for the Homeland, and lifejackets should be worn by fishermen at all times while on deck.

Since the crash, the managers of the Scottish Viking, owned by Italian company Visemar, have introduced new procedures aimed at improving the performance of their bridge teams.

Because of those actions, the branch has issued no further safety recommendations to the firm.

Dan had been working on the Homeland to earn extra money before taking his A-levels at college.

Despite a large-scale search at the time, his body was not found until November.

The publication of the report has prompted Dan’s family to call for changes to be made to make the seas safer for fishing boats.

His mother, Michelle Thomson, said: “There has to have been a purpose for Daniel’s life, and if this is his purpose, it means we’ve got to keep fighting for changes.”

Dan also leaves behind father Don and brothers David, John, Joseph and Luke.