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Community / Fundraiser ‘speechless’ after appeal for fisherman’s family reaches £35,000

Robie Johnson says she is overwhelmed by the amount raised so far. Photo: Chris Cope/Shetland News

THE WOMAN behind a fundraising appeal for the family of the fisherman who died after falling overboard off Shetland on Thursday says she is “speechless” after the campaign hit £35,000.

Robie Johnson set up the online appeal after her friend Joseph Lacaste, who worked on the local trawler Copious, died after the incident around 30 miles south east of Sumburgh.

The 45-year-old, who is from the Philippines, was formally named by the police yesterday.

Speaking on Saturday morning, Johnson said she was amazed by how much had been raised.

She looked to raise money for the father of two’s family back home in the Philippines to assist them with mortgage payments, as well as living and travel costs.

As of Saturday morning around £35,000 had been raised, which is far beyond the initial targets.

She said the money would now pay off the mortgage on Lacaste’s house.

Joseph Lacaste.

“I feel really overwhelmed how the public has supported it, not just here – everywhere, nationwide I would say,” Johnson said.

“A lot of people have reached out on Facebook telling me that they would be sharing my post.

“It’s really amazing, and I’m very thankful to all my friends here in Shetland, the Filipino community – they’re behind my back helping me. And to all the public here in Shetland.”

Johnson, who lives in Gulberwick, said she has spoken to Lacaste’s wife since starting the fundraiser.

“When I told her that her house is paid for, she just cried,” she said.

“She never thought that her house was going to be paid. But at the same time she lost her husband. She’s happy that we’re helping her, but at the same time she said I just wish I’d get my husband back.”

Johnson said she knows the Copious crew and has been keeping in touch since the vessel arrived back in Lerwick on Thursday.

“I know I’m doing this fundraiser for Joseph’s family, but I’m not only thinking about Joseph’s family,” she said.

“I care about the boys here. I’ve known most of the Filipino crew on the local fishing boats since about 2008, and they’ve become part of my life here. I’m willing to help them with anything that I can.

“I spoke to a few of them yesterday, and I know they’re not really doing well on the boat. I’m just concerned about their wellbeing. I think they needed support as well.”

People can donate to the fundraiser via this link.

The police, meanwhile, said on Friday that the incident remains under investigation by Police Scotland and the Marine Accident Investigation Branch.

A report will be submitted to the Procurator Fiscal in due course.

The Sumburgh based coastguard helicopter recovered Lacaste from the sea in the early hours of Thursday morning, but his death was later confirmed by police.