Page last updated at 13:02 GMT, Tuesday, 30 September 2008 14:02 UK

Tug death families demand inquiry

Helen and Nina Humphreys and Linda Cameron
Helen Humphrey and Linda Cameron called for a public inquiry

The family of crewmen who died when a tug capsized in the River Clyde have called for a public inquiry.

Helen Humphreys and Linda Cameron, who lost their husbands when the Flying Phantom sank last year.

Their call came after a report said the vessel had capsized, with the loss of three lives, because a towing winch did not release fast enough.

The families said they were considering legal action against port authority Clydeport and tug owners Svitzer.

And they said they would urge the procurator fiscal to consider corporate manslaughter charges if it was found that there had been a criminal breach of the existing rules.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch report into the sinking criticised the port, saying its risk assessment was "poor".

It called on port operator Clydeport to review its safety procedures.

The Flying Phantom went down without warning on 19 December.

Eric Blackley (left) and Robert Cameron
Eric Blackley (left) and Robert Cameron died in the tug

The bodies of three crew - skipper Stephen Humphreys, 33, from Greenock, Eric Blackley, 57, from Gourock, and Robert Cameron, 65, from Houston - were later recovered.

Another crewman, Brian Aitchison, 37, from Coldingham, was rescued from the water after he managed to escape from the tug's wheelhouse.

Speaking at a news conference in Glasgow, Mrs Cameron said she was in a state of "disbelief" after learning that the Flying Phantom had ran aground in fog in 2000.

"Recommendations made at that time haven't been enforced," she said.

"Some action has been taken, but not enough to ensure that similar accidents don't happen again and other families don't have to suffer the devastation which we've suffered."

The families' lawyer, Frank McGuire of Thomson's Solicitors, said a public inquiry was needed to explain why recommendations from other incidents had not been put in place.

"The report says that understanding the likelihood of fog occurring and having a reliable system in place that detects fog as early as possible are important aspects of managing the safety of a commercial port.

"In 2004, Southampton Port installed a fog detection system.

"You have to ask the question, why is it that a fog detection system was not installed on the Clyde?"

Mr McGuire said a fog detection system could have been installed for about 30,000.

Helen Humphrey and Linda Cameron remember their husbands

He said Clydeport's assertion that this was "not practicable" was down to financial considerations.

It is now likely that the bereaved families will proceed with civil action for financial losses suffered as a result of the accident.

Mr McGuire also said that it would be up to the lord advocate to decide if there had been any "criminal behaviour" in relation to alleged health and safety breaches.

He said that if this was found to be the case, the families would press the procurator fiscal to pursue corporate manslaughter charges.

The Scottish secretary of the union, Unite, John Quigley, said the report into the sinking of the Flying Phantom had UK-wide ramifications.

"As a result of this damning report, Unite is calling for a public inquiry and for the Lord Advocate to bring charges of culpable homicide against Clydeport," he said.

"Our members go to work to provide for themselves and their families - not to suffer injury or death.

"Unite will not let this issue slip and we shall be urging action on this report from ministers at the Scottish and UK Parliaments."

A Clydeport spokesman said: "We are studying the report carefully but feel it inappropriate to comment while other investigations continue."


SEE ALSO
Tug's winch 'to blame for deaths'
30 Sep 08 |  Glasgow, Lanarkshire and West
Boat raised after Clyde tragedy
17 Jan 08 |  Glasgow, Lanarkshire and West
Third funeral after Clyde tragedy
09 Jan 08 |  Glasgow, Lanarkshire and West
From glory days to river tragedy
20 Dec 07 |  Glasgow, Lanarkshire and West

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