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Court / Fatal accident inquiry determination highlights crew’s brave rescue attempts

THE CREW of a local fishing boat did “all that they could” to try to recover a colleague as soon as possible from the sea after he fell overboard, according to the determination of a fatal accident inquiry.

Sheriff Ian Cruickshank also paid tribute to the “bravery” of skipper Andrew White after Edison ‘Joseph’ Lacaste fell overboard off the Copious in February 2021.

A determination on Lacaste’s fatal accident inquiry, written by Sheriff Cruickshank, was published on Friday.

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 inquiry had 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.

It previously heard that Lacaste had worn his personal flotation device (PFD) but, as was common practice within the industry, without fastening the crutch strap of the device.

But the inquiry had been told that the fisherman was unlikely to have survived even if he had worn his PFD correctly.

Efforts were made by crew to recover Lacaste to safety, including skipper White partially entering the water, but he became “weaker and increasingly incapacitated”.

A coastguard helicopter later arrived on scene and recovered Lacaste from the water before heading to Lerwick’s Gilbert Bain Hospital, but he was pronounced dead despite efforts of medical staff to resuscitate him. The cause of death was ruled as complications of immersion in sea water.

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Sheriff Cruickshank ruled that the owners of the Copious had generally complied with regulations in force at the time of the accident around PFDs.

He added: “The only realistic recommendation that I could have made as a result of this inquiry would have been to recommend that further efforts were made to ensure that PFDs were always worn in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions.”

But the sheriff said that has already been addressed by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), and as such no recommendations were made.

He also noted that the crew of the Copious attempted Lacaste’s recovery in “difficult circumstances”.

The sheriff concluded: “He was an experienced fisherman, respected member of the crew of the Copious, and a well-loved husband and father who is dearly missed by his family and friends.”

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