Press Notice No: 179-08
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Posted 12:26 GMT
FISHING BOAT SKIPPER SENT TO JAIL FOR DEATH OF TWO CREWMEN
At a hearing today in Belfast, Conrad Zych, the Owner/Skipper of the fishing vessel Greenhill was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment for each charge of unlawful killing of Donall Gibson and Connor Bogues, with sentences to run concurrently. Conrad Zych had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing on 20th May 2008. A joint investigation by the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency was conducted into why the Greenhill had grounded and subsequently sank near the entrance to her home port of Ardglass. The two crew men were lost and to date only the body of Donal Gibson has been recovered.
On the morning of 19th January 2006 the Greenhill sailed with a crew of three; Conrad Zych, 28, Donall Gibson, 22 and Connor Bogues, 24. The boat spent the day trawling for prawns to the East of Ardglass. They stopped fishing at around 1600hrs on order to return to port. Conrad Zych admitted that he spent much of the return journey away from the wheelhouse working with the crew in the shelter deck, processing the prawns. He occasionally stepped back up into the wheelhouse to check their location before returning again to the deck. The weather that night was quite strong southerly winds with occasional rain showers. The sea was moderately rough.
At 2016 hours Falmouth Coastguard received a signal from an Emergency Position Indicating Rescue Beacon (EPIRB). The Portaferry Lifeboat Blue Peter 5 was launched and at 2120 it located the liferaft from the Greenhill, but only the skipper was found inside.
Skipper Zych told police that he had been working on the deck and when the boat grounded he ran to the wheelhouse and put the engines full astern. The boat backed off the rocks sustaining serious damage and began to fill with water. The skipper instructed the crew to fetch their lifejackets from the cabin, but it was already flooded and so they launched the liferaft. All three jumped into the water. Only the skipper managed to climb into the liferaft.
The search continued all night for the missing crew, however no other survivors were found. Divers subsequently found the body of Donnal Gibson on the 22nd January.
In summing up, the judge His Honour John Hart said that the skippers neglect of essential safety precautions could not be excused, and that his neglect to keep a proper lookout amounted to gross negligence and led directly to this terrible tragedy. He added that the failure to keep a proper watch is a not uncommon practice cannot exculpate the defendant from punishment, nor should it affect the nature of the punishment.
Captain Bill Bennett, the Area Operations Manager (Survey and Inspection) of the MCA in Northern Ireland said:
We cannot over emphasise the importance of keeping a good lookout. Fishing vessel skippers are not only responsible for their own safety, but that of their vessel and its crew. Keeping a good lookout does not only make practical sense and is good seamanship, it is also required under the International Regulations for the Prevention of collisions at Sea
Posted By: Rosie Tapping
For further details contact:
The Maritime & Coastguard Agency Press Office
023 8032 9401