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Inquiries into trawler disaster complete

PUBLISHED: 05:00 07 June 2003 | UPDATED: 13:59 03 March 2010

ACCIDENT investigators today revealed they have completed inquiries into the capsize of a trawler which sank off Felixstowe with the loss of four lives.

ACCIDENT investigators today revealed they have completed inquiries into the capsize of a trawler which sank off Felixstowe with the loss of four lives.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch said a report on the tragedy of the 24ft long Flamingo was now being prepared for publication.

What caused the accident though will remain a mystery until the report is published, though fishermen at Felixstowe are pleased the report will be available sooner rather than later.

Initially it was said that investigations could take up to two years to complete.

One trawlerman, who asked not to be named but has fished off the Suffolk coast for many years, said there had been a lot of concern at first that other crews might also be in danger and not know what preventative measures to take.

"Everyone was very concerned when this accident happened but there have been no similar incidents since," he said.

"I think if there had been something we should all have known then the MAIB would have told us about it immediately. It will be interesting to see what their findings are though as this boat went down in very good sailing conditions."

The Flamingo, crewed by four Belgian fishermen, capsized in minutes in good sailing conditions about 20 miles off Felixstowe and Harwich on July 7 last year.

Search and rescue teams found the bodies of two men floating in the sea near the upturned hull but the bodies of the others have yet to be found.

The crew were captain Michel D'Hondt, 32, Peter Coopman, 41, Franky Vanhondeghem, 38, and Michael Steenkiste, 18.

Thames Coastguard was alerted after receiving a signal from the Flamingo's automatic satellite mayday system on the vessel.

Devices on the trawler recognised the boat was in trouble and beamed a distress mayday to a space satellite but the capsize happened so quickly there was no time for the crew to add any details.

The vessel was raised from its watery grave on the seabed 160 feet below the waves by a salvage operation using a giant winch.

The MAIB said the investigation into the accident was now complete and a report was being prepared for publication.

Details of the inquiry's findings would not be made public until the report came out and it was not possible at this stage to give a date for publication, though it is not expected to be long.

The MAIB can make recommendations on changes to safety laws in the light of accidents.

The cause of the capsize is a mystery. Some experts have said it could have been caused by nets becoming snagged on objects on the seabed. Others have speculated about collisions with other vessels or problems caused by big waves from the wash from larger vessels.

WEBLINK: www.maib.dft.gov.uk

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