Nicola Faith: Fishermen were probably 'trapped on deck' when boat capsized, inquest hears

The three men's bodies were found on The Wirral after a multi-agency search Credit: Family photos

Three fishermen who drowned probably died because they were trapped on deck when their boat capsized, an inquest has heard.

Ross Ballantine, 39, Alan Minard, 20, and skipper Carl McGrath, 34, all died after the Nicola Faith fishing boat went down off the Conwy coast in January 2021.

The boat had a number of modifications on it which affected its stability, the inquest heard Credit: Media Wales

All three men's bodies were recovered from the coastline off the Wirral and Blackpool in March 2021.

The boat itself was discovered a month later on 13 April 2021, and was eventually raised in May 2021 using a 43m long crane barrage.

The wreckage of the boat was recovered in May 2021

A report following their deaths revealed the boat was not fit to sail, and there were "various faults" with the ship, including a lack of proper safety equipment.

Questioned by the coroner about safety equipment on board the Nicola Faith, Captain Jonathan Jones, an inspector with Jones Marine Accident Investigation branch told the inquest that the alarm could have been raised within "15 to 20 minutes" if there was an emergency locator beacon on the boat, particularly as the vessel went own relatively near to the coast and to the RNLI lifeboat station at Llandudno.

The inquest heard the men were probably processing the catch of the fish when the boat went down Credit: Media Wales

He said it was likely that when the boat sank the men were on deck processing the catch of fish, and they had become trapped due to the modifications on the boat and the size of the haul.

He added that modifications themselves were not unsafe, but they affected the stability of the boat.

Combined with the weight of the catch and the number of pots they had collected, it meant even a "small movement could cause the boat to capsize."

It had been estimated that the combined weight of the catch and pots was 4.6 tonnes and that meant  the boats poor level of stability had almost "completely disappeared".

The families of the fishermen have pledged to work with the RNLI to improve commercial fishing safety Credit: RNLI

To mark the one year anniversary of the Nicola Faith tragedy, families of the fishermen pledged to work with the RNLI to improve commercial fishing safety and prevent other families suffering, with supporters raising thousands of pounds for the RNLI.

The MAIB has made safety recommendations to ensure small fishing vessels limit their loads and monitor the level of modifications trigger further investigation into a vessel’s stability.