Burntisland fisherman died after harbour crane broke and fell onto his boat

The incident happened at Burntisland Harbour.The incident happened at Burntisland Harbour.
The incident happened at Burntisland Harbour.
A fisherman died after a small crane fell on his boat and he ended up in the water of a Fife harbour, a Fatal Accident Inquiry FAI has found.

Alexander John Robert Wood died on the morning of August 24, 2018 at Burntisland harbour after the incident, and the results of the FAI – held in May 2021 -have now been published.

While no witnesses saw the incident occur, an examination of the aftermath determined Mr Wood’s death was linked to the failure of the crane.

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The local fisherman, 65, had been using the small crane, known as a davit, to lift a box of bait onto his boat.

However, Mr Wood had no knowledge that the davit had hidden corrosion inside the steel tube which rose up from the baseplate.

The FAI heard that the davit broke and fell onto the boat, at which point Mr Wood fell into the water. The inquiry also heard that he had a broken arm consistent with having a heavy object fall on it.

The cause of Mr Wood’s death was ruled by the inquiry to be “immersion in water in a man with ischaemic heart disease”.

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The Determination of the inquiry, according to Sheriff Alastair Brown was that the davit breaking was likely to be involved in Mr Wood’s death.

Sheriff Brown said: “It is beyond doubt that Mr Wood met his death in an accident and that it involved the failure of the davit; but it is not possible to determine at this stage what the mechanism of that accident was or what part the davit played. Various hypotheses can be advanced but the evidence does not point to any one of them being more likely than another. It is clear that the davit had not been inspected for several years (if ever).

“It appears that the reason for that is that Forth Ports recognised an historic right in residents of Burntisland to use the Outer Harbour without paying any charges and that they took the view that equipment installed on the outer harbour was the responsibility of those who used it.”

In concluding, Sheriff Brown said: “In my opinion, there is a strong argument that the davit had become the property of Forth Ports Ltd by accession. A range of criteria are considered in determining such a question. In this case, the fixture might well be described as permanent, in view of the difficulty experienced in removing the base plate. However, the fact that the mechanism of the accident cannot be ascertained - in particular, that I cannot say that the failure of the davit was causally connected with Mr Wood’s death - means that I do not have to decide the question.

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“In addition, it is arguable that Forth Ports Ltd had certain duties arising from their control of the outer harbour; but for the same reason, I do not have to decide that.”

Sheriff Brown said that he could make no recommendations due to Forth Ports having already carried out a review.

“Forth Ports have acted responsibly. They have carried out a review across their whole Scottish estate to determine whether there were any other pieces of equipment installed by third parties and to either remove any such equipment or ensure that it is maintained properly.”