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Marine / Determination expected in coming weeks as fatal accident inquiry comes to an end

A DETERMINATION from Sheriff Ian Cruickshank on the fatal accident inquiry (FAI) into the death of a fisherman off the coast of Shetland is expected to be issued in the next few weeks.

As the inquiry came to a close on Thursday afternoon, Sheriff Cruickshank acknowledged the “prompt and brave actions” of those working on local boat Copious as they tried to recover their colleague Edison Lacaste from the water.

The sheriff also extended his condolences and sympathies to Lacaste’s family and workmates.

Edison (Joseph) Lacaste died when he fell overboard from the whitefish trawler Copious on 18 February 2021.

The 45-year old Philippine national died after falling into the water while carrying out repairs to fishing gear on the twin rigger Copious in the early hours of 18 February 2021.

The hearing previously heard that while trying to fit a shackle to a loose wire trailing behind the vessel, Lacaste must have climbed on to the bulwark of the vessel from where he lost his footing and fell into the seven degrees cold water, 30 miles southeast of Sumburgh.

Having started on Monday, the FAI hearing concluded on Thursday after the various parties entered written submissions.

The matters discussed at Thursday’s short hearing mainly related to personal flotation devices (PFD) and also the changes in regulations since the accident.

The FAI previously heard that Lacaste had worn his PFD but, as was common practice within the industry, without fastening the crutch strap of the device.

The inquiry had been told that the fisherman was unlikely to have survived even if he had worn his PFD correctly. This was reiterated at Thursday’s hearing, with fiscal depute David Glancy saying that the cause of death was ruled as complications of immersion in water.

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Since Lacaste’s death, safety advice from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) has been amended to require fishermen not only to wear PFDs but to wear them correctly in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations. Glancy said the MCA took prompt measures after Lacaste’s death.

“[The] MCA can do no more than they have done,” he said.

Solicitor Martin Sinclair, acting for Copious owners 60 North Fishing (Shetland) Ltd, said there has been “significant development and changes to the regulations” since the accident.

Advocate Emma Toner, speaking on behalf of the MCA, said there would be no recommendations proposed.

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