Inquest to begin into fishermen's deaths after 'not fit to sail' boat sank off Conwy coast

The fishing boat the three men were using was discovered to be extensively modified, reducing its stability.

An inquest is taking place today (Friday 14 July) into the deaths of three fishermen whose boat sank off the Conwy coast.

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

A Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) report from June last year, found various faults with the vessel, including a lack of proper safety equipment that would have informed the men it was carrying too much weight.

It had also been extensively modified during its life which had significantly reduced its stability and it had not been fitted with a mandatory emergency beacon to alert to the capsize.

It was also revealed that the men did not always wear the proper safety equipment while at sea.

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 vessel was finally raised in May 2021 after sinking in January that year.

Key safety issues identified by MAIB:

  • Nicola Faith was operated in an unsafe manner and was loaded with a combination of catch and retrieved fishing gear to the point of instability.

  • A mandatory Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) was not fitted to the vessel and the crew were not equipped with personal locator beacons.

  • Nicola Faith was found to have been extensively modified; these modifications had eroded its margin of positive stability.

  • Maritime and Coastguard Agency surveyors had noted some of the modifications, however, the guidance concerning modifications that would have triggered a stability assessment was not sufficiently clear.

  • Although available on board, the crew did not routinely wear personal flotation devices.

Since the fishermen's deaths, their families have been working to raise awareness of being safe whilst out commercial fishing.

Since their deaths, the families of the fishermen have been working with the RNLI to improve commercial fishing safety, raising thousands of pounds for the charity.

The MAIB has also 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.

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