Retired captain unhappy with emphasis on safety harness in drowning case

A retired sea captain says he was unhappy about the emphasis being placed on the wearing of a safety harness in an investigation into the death of a fisherman.

Jose Alberto Nova Vareiro was involved in deploying nets into the Atlantic Ocean to fish for prawns when he fell overboard and drowned on June 30th 2016.

Dingle-based company Iasc Geal Teoranta, which owns the trawler, has pleaded not guilty to three charges of breaching the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act.

Captain Neil Forde, who has 24 years’ experience and is now retired from the Marine Survey Office, told Tralee Circuit Court that a safety certificate would have been issued for Cu na Mara after a thorough investigation; he said the vessel was well maintained and managed.

He apologised for presenting a report he carried out on the fatal incident at the start of the trial but he said information contained in it had been passed onto investigating Health and Safety Authority inspector David Barry verbally on at least two occasions.

Mr Forde said he was not happy about the emphasis being placed on the safety harness and he had told Mr Barry he was wrong about the need to wear it.

Mr Forde agreed he was concerned about a risk of an injustice being done in the case and only found out the trial was going ahead by accident.

Mr Forde said that a safety harness would have prevented Jose Alberto Nova Vareiro falling overboard however using the harness where revolving drums and wires are present would have been more hazardous.

Mr Forde said fishermen need to move quickly and freely; he said lots of fishermen are nervous of such a device as a result.

He said he wouldn’t expect any fisherman to tie himself on at the rear of the Cu na Mara and agreed to insist on wearing a harness was not reasonable or practicable in this situation.