Three an­glers died af­ter crash ‘caused by skip­per us­ing What­sApp at helm’

Scottish Daily Mail - - Daily Mail Campaign - By Jaya Narain

‘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

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