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Two year wait for trawler verdict

PUBLISHED: 21:15 05 September 2002 | UPDATED: 12:36 03 March 2010

IT could be TWO YEARS before the public knows the truth behind a mystery accident in which a trawler sank off Felixstowe with the loss of four lives.

Accident investigators say that's how long it could take for them to complete their inquiries into the tragedy and release details of its cause, the Evening Star can reveal today.

EXCLUSIVE By RICHARD CORNWELL Felixstowe editor

richard.cornwell@eveningstar.co.uk

IT could be two years before the public knows the truth behind a mystery accident in which a trawler sank off Felixstowe with the loss of four lives.

Accident investigators say that's how long it could take for them to complete their inquiries into the tragedy and release details of its cause, The Evening Star can reveal today.

It's cold comfort for fishermen who risk their lives every day with the dangers, which could have caused the trawler to capsize, still lurking and being unable to take preventative measures.

One fisherman told the Star today that he could not believe an investigation would take so long.

"When I heard that it could be up to two years I was staggered – I cannot understand it at all," said the trawlerman, who asked not to be named but has fished off the Suffolk coast for many years.

"I think it's disgusting. We don't know what caused this accident and if it was something which could effect others then we all need to be told."

The 24ft Flamingo, crewed by four Belgian fishermen, capsized in minutes in good sailing conditions about 20 miles off Felixstowe and Harwich.

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 to the accident on July 8 after receiving a signal from an automatic satellite mayday system on the vessel Flamingo.

Devices on the trawler recognised that 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.

Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) spokesman James Thompson, said an inquiry was under way but was in the very early stages.

"They are only two months into the investigation and on average it tales around 18 months to two years to publish the final report. But once the findings are known they will be made public," he said.

The MAIB can make recommendations on changes to safety laws in the light of accidents and in extremely serious or unusual circumstances will release an interim report to give advice to seafarers.

The cause of the Flamingo's 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.

WEBLINKS

www.maib.dft.gov.uk

www.shipping.dft.gov.uk

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