Marine Accident Investigation Branch Safety Digest 3/2004 Case 10
Fatal Balancing Act
When the FRC came alongside the vessel, the engineer and cook climbed out of it, and the engineer removed his lifejacket. The skipper connected up the lifting hook from the vessel's crane to the FRC. The FRC's painter was tied loosely to the vessel's guardrail.
The skipper stayed on board the FRC as it was hoisted from the water and raised level with the vessel's deck. The engineer assisted with the stores transfer but, during the unloading operation, the loose gas bottles rolled, the painter released and the FRC began to dip at the bow and ship water.
To counteract the increasing trim of the FRC by the bow, the engineer jumped into the stern of the FRC. This caused it to tip vertically and the stern to come into contact with the lifting strop.
In an effort to stabilise the FRC, it was lowered back to the water. As the bow re-entered the water, it further unbalanced the FRC, the gas bottles were lost over the bow and the FRC began to flip through 180°. The skipper managed to cling to the lifting strop. The engineer, however, was washed off and swept away.
Time was of the essence, as the crew, desperate to save their colleague fighting against a strong tide, attempted to restart the FRC's engine. Unfortunately, it had become submerged when the FRC flipped over, putting it out of action. The crew started the mother vessel's engine, cut through the anchor chain and hurriedly threw a lifebelt to their colleague. But it was too late. Before the engineer was able to grab it, he drifted away from them. His body was recovered 2 weeks later.
2. Had the heavy gas bottles been suitably secured in the FRC, or removed before it was hoisted, loose heavy loads would not have moved around and destabilised the FRC.
3. The engineer probably decided - on the spur of the moment - to jump onto the FRC from the vessel, to prevent the stores being lost overboard. It was a selfless action, but one that cost him his life. Everyone needs to place safety first.