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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 September 2006, 16:03 GMT 17:03 UK
Marine inquiry told of 'failings'
Loch Ewe, Wester Ross
The marine was diving in Loch Ewe, Wester Ross
A fish farm manager has expressed "regret" at safety failings prior to the drowning of a Royal Marine.

Martin Blackley, 26, was killed after becoming entangled in a rope within a cage in Loch Ewe, Wester Ross, as he attempted to clear out dead fish.

John McKay, 40, a manager for seafood firm Marine Harvest, said the dive in May 2002 would not have gone ahead had the proper checks been made.

The fatal accident inquiry at Dingwall Sheriff Court continues.

Mr McKay agreed that the safety regime at the time of the accident was "lapse" and had been considered merely as a "paperwork exercise", the inquiry heard.

Stringent procedures

He said the proper procedures had not been complied with either by him as manager, nor the diving contractor Aultbea-based Seahorse Aquaculture operated by Colin Bell.

However, he said stringent procedures had since been introduced following the incident.

Mr Blackley, of 45 Commando based at Arbroath, had agreed to be part of the dive team after being asked by Mr Bell's son, James, a friend of the marine.

Procurator Fiscal Roderick Urquhart read out various method statements and policies held by Marine Harvest for diving operations.

He said these require a four-man dive team consisting of a supervisor, a diver, standby diver and assistant tender.

On the day Mr Blackley died there was only three men on duty - James Bell, Mr Blackley and David Beaton as tender, the inquiry heard.

The fiscal asked Mr McKay: "Did you make inquiries as to how many people would be on that team?"

He replied: "When I spoke to Colin and James they said it would be a dive team. I assumed it would be four."

Asked if he should have gone and checked personally, he replied: "It is something I regret, yes, that I did not check it."

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