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Wednesday 14 November 2018

Jamie (28) drowned as uncle's boat flipped over close to the shore

Keith McAllister outside Dublin Coroner’s Court
Keith McAllister outside Dublin Coroner’s Court

A young man working on his uncle's fishing boat died after it capsized only 100 metres from shore, an inquest has heard.

Jamie McAllister and his uncle, Keith McAllister, made a desperate bid to swim to safety, Dublin Coroner's Court was told.

The skipper survived and told the inquest into his 28-year-old nephew's death how his 8.6-metre dredge-fishing vessel the Shanie B flipped over, leaving both men submerged.

The incident happened at Skerries harbour on May 26 last year.

Jamie, an apprentice electrician, had asked his uncle for a few days' work.

The weather was sunny, the sea was calm and the tide was coming in as the pair left Skerries Harbour at 9.30am.

Giving evidence, Keith McAllister said they were dredging and emptying the contents into barrels on deck when the boat began to slow at around 12.45pm.

They lifted the dredger and found it was carrying a lot of weight in the form of stones.

As it came up out of the water it swung to the starboard side.

The weight shifted the vessel in the water and Keith McAllister ran to the wheelhouse to try to turn the boat, but it "flipped over" in a matter of seconds.

"I ran in to spin the wheel the opposite way and tried to drive her on," Mr McAllister told the court.

"The TV flew off the wall and hit me in the face. I think it knocked me out.

"I came to up to my neck in water. The wheelhouse door was closed and everything was jammed up against it.

"I went down three times to clear the way to get out the door."

When he surfaced, he saw Jamie clinging to the hull, and the pair decided to swim to the nearest yacht as the boat quickly began to sink.

"We tried to swim but every time I looked up, we were further away from the yacht," Mr McAllister said.

"When the boat went down, the bubbles separated us, and that was the last time I saw Jamie."

The skipper tried to continue swimming but said the tide was against him, and he grew exhausted and lost consciousness in the water.

Skerries-based fireman Mich-ael Woods witnessed the incident from the shore.

"About 1.20pm, I saw a single boat roll and two heads coming up," he told the court.

"They got away from the boat, but the stern went down and one disappeared."

Divers

Mr Woods notified emergency services, and Skerries RNLI launched immediately and rescued Keith McAllister from the water.

His nephew's body was recovered the following morning.

Garda divers located him in nine metres of water, 60 metres from the site of the sinking.

A post mortem gave the cause of death as drowning.

Health and Safety inspector Anthony Morahan noted in his report that neither man was wearing a life-jacket, though two were available on board.

A file was sent to the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), but no prosecution was directed.

Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane returned a verdict of misadventure and noted the "relevant factor" that flotation devices were not worn.

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