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BBC Scotland Euan McIlwraith
"Former crewmen said it was an accident just waiting to happen"
 real 56k

Tuesday, 10 October, 2000, 13:40 GMT 14:40 UK
Fresh doubts over Harvester safety
Solway Harvester
Former crewmen have expressed their concerns
Fresh doubts have emerged over the seaworthiness of the Solway Harvester, which sank in January with the loss of its seven-man crew.

The safety record of the fleet operated by the boat's owners, Jack Robinson Trawlers, was investigated by the BBC's Frontline Scotland programme.

It found that four of its boats had been lost in the last 15 years, with the loss of 15 lives.

The programme has heard accusations that the official accident report from the Marine Accident Investigation Branch was simply masking the truth.

That investigation found a hatch on the Harvester's main deck had been left open and that its two lifeboats had not been serviced since 1996. They also appeared not to have been attached to the boat.

Solway Harvester wreck
The wreck was lifted from the seabed in June
The vessel sank in heavy seas off the Isle of Man on 11 January.

All seven who died were from the Machars area of Galloway, which includes the tight-knit villages of Isle of Whithorn, Whithorn and Garlieston.

The community was united in its grief following the death of skipper Craig Mills, 29, his brother Robin, 33, their cousin David, 17, teenagers David Lyons and Wesley Jolly, 26-year-old Martin Milligan and John Murphy, 22.

Allegations that the Kirkcudbright-based vessel had been unseaworthy were made at the time of the tragedy.

Frontline Scotland - which will be shown at 2200 BST on Tuesday - has uncovered a damning catalogue of faults in the company's fleet.

'Cavalier attitude''

It is alleged that Jack Robinson Trawlers had a cavalier attitude to safety.

The programme has been told that vital safety equipment was swapped from vessel to vessel to ensure they passed government inspections.

Concerns have been expressed by former crewmen on the Solway Harvester.

They said the deck was continually awash with water, something which may have played an important part in the sinking.

However, the company said it was the skipper's responsibility not to sail if the vessel was unseaworthy.

It has denied all the allegations in the programme.

In August of this year one of the Solway Harvester's sister vessels sank off the north-east of Scotland.

The three crew on the Karianda were rescued by an RAF helicopter after the fishing boat started taking on water 15 miles east of Stonehaven.

The defects were said to be similar to those found on the Solway Harvester.

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Trawler sinking
The unfolding of the Solway Harvester story
See also:

14 Aug 00 | Scotland
Solway Harvester sister vessel sinks
22 Feb 00 | Scotland
Trawler probe finds safety flaws
09 Feb 00 | Scotland
Harvester crewmen laid to rest
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