Suspected faulty lifejackets implicated in the deaths of three fishermen from the
MFV Louisa which sank off Mingulay last year are carried on Cal Mac ships.
An investigation report suggested the popular type of lifejacket may have failed
to prevent unconscious crew members of the Louisa from drowning after they were forced
to abandon their sinking vessel.
The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) called for “urgent” tests on the
Cal Mac confirmed they use the lifejackets.
Martin Johnstone, 29, from Caithness, and father-of-two, Chris Morrison, 27, from
South Harris, as well as forty-two year old Paul Alliston died when their 16-metre
long crabber flooded and went down at anchor some 13 miles south of Barra in April
They were found face down in the sea despite the lifesaving aid supposed to float
them on their backs and keep their mouths clear.
The MAIB highlighted said: “It is possible that there would have been more survivors
had the skipper and crew’s lifejackets been more effective in prolonging their survival
and/or had the rescue services arrived sooner.”
A Cal Mac spokesman said: "We note the findings of the MAIB report into the Louisa
accident and in particular the concerns about the lifejackets used.
“Safety is our main priority and we will be reviewing, as we always do, these findings
to see if there are any implications for our own safety procedures.
“We will also ask the MCA for their guidance on the issues around lifejackets and
if they advise or instruct a change we will, of course, fully comply."
The MAB said fatigue and bad working practices led to the boat flooding and ultimately
Then a broken liferaft and the suspected faulty lifejackets severely reduced the
men’s chances of survival when they abandoned ship.
No helicopter or lifeboat was tasked until after an “unnecessary delay“ of nearly
Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents Steve Clinch said failures “meant that, after
abandoning the vessel, the skipper and crew depended on their lifejackets for survival.
“A lifejacket should turn an unconscious person onto their back and keep their airway
clear of the water.
“It is therefore of concern that the skipper and two crew were tragically found unresponsive
and face down in their lifejackets when the rescue services arrived on scene.
“The results of lifejacket trials undertaken by the MAIB and of lifejacket testing
commissioned by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) following the accident strengthen
“Therefore, as a matter of urgency, I am recommending the MCA to conduct further
research to confirm or otherwise the suitability of historical and extant lifejacket
water performance test protocols.”
Lifejackets implicated in Louisa tragedy carried on Western Isles ferries