Three anglers died after crash ‘caused by skipper using WhatsApp at helm’
‘He was not paying attention’
A SCOTS skipper was distracted by social media when his trawler sank a tiny fishing boat and three anglers on board died, a court heard yesterday.
Instead of keeping watch, David Marr was allegedly sending WhatsApp messages to a friend as his dredger bore down on the smaller boat.
Realising they were about to be hit, the four anglers on board the fishing boat began signalling frantically, shouting and waving torches.
At the last second they put their 16ft boat, the James 2, into a hard throttle to try to escape the much larger vessel, a commercial scallop dredger registered in Peterhead, Aberdeenshire.
The boats narrowly missed each other in the darkness, but a large wave swamped the smaller boat, causing it to sink.
The Romanian-born anglers – Mircea Ilie, 40, Irinel Popovici, 41, Traiam Dumitrache, 50, and Elvis Cojocariu, – jumped into the sea as their fibreglass boat sank and tried to swim to safety. But none of the men, who had drunk a small amount of whisky, was wearing a lifejacket.
Only Mr Cojocariu, 45, an electrician from London, survived after swimming for four hours and almost a mile-and-ahalf back towards the shore.
He was picked up by a fisherman who was out checking his nets. Mr Cojocariu was exhausted and suffering from hypothermia and was taken to hospital. The other three anglers drowned.
Marr, from Peterhead, only found out later when he heard about the incident on the radio.
Yesterday the 53-year-old went on trial at Lewes Crown Court in East Sussex charged with failing to keep a proper lookout on board the commercial trawler, the Verwere trouwen. David Richards, prosecuting, said the incident happened around 12.25am on August 6, 2017, on a calm and clear night off Shoreham in West Sussex.
The court heard the Vertrouwen should have had two watchmen on lookout but there was only one – the skipper, Marr. Instead of keeping watch as he should have done he was allegedly messaging on his phone.
Mr Richards said: ‘He was in a WhatsApp conversation with a friend, Davey Watt. It is very clear that he was entirely unaware of the James 2.
‘He was not paying sufficient, if any, attention... The men of James 2 could make out the dark shape and it seemed to them they
about to be run over.’ As it was swamped, the four men on board shouted loudly and continued to wave their torches to try to attract attention.
Mr Richards said: ‘Water flooded into the James 2 but the Vertrouwen carried on in the same direction and at the same speed.’
The lights of their torches should have been observed from the Vertrouwen.
‘But Mr Marr was not paying attention,’ said Mr Richards. ‘If had he would have seen the James 2 and the men on boat as he steamed close by them.’
He said that as the anglers desperately tried to attract attention they looked up at the wheelhouse but could see no-one there.
Their boat was swamped by a second wave from the wake of the trawler and sank very quickly.
The jury was told the James 2 was more suited to inland waterways than the sea and lacked sufficient lighting and radar equipment.
Marr denies the charge. The case continues.
Drowned: Traiam Dumitrache was one of three who died
Accused: Skipper David Marr