Skipper admits safety failings led to death of diver off Methil

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  • Diver resurfaced in distress
  • Fishing for clams south of Methil Harbour
  • Lack of safety equipment and management

The skipper of a Methil fishing boat has admitted safety flaws which led to the death of a scuba diver he had just taken on to fish for razor clams.

Father-of-one Graeme Mackie (31) resurfaced in distress and shouting for help just a minute into his first dive for shellfish 600 metres south of Methil Harbour.

He then disappeared from view and skipper Ronald MacNeil jumped into the water but could not find him.

A diver from another vessel which joined in the rescue attempts found Mr Mackie on the seabed and brought him to the surface but all resuscitation attempts failed.

Dunfermline Sheriff Court heard yesterday that MacNeil, skipper of the ‘Rob Roy’, had been involved in electro-fishing, a practice where a generator on the ship sends charges through probes on to the sea bed uncovering clams which are then gathered.

However, depute fiscal Louise Beattie said there was no evidence this was a factor in Mr Mackie’s death, which was caused by drowning and there was sign of electrocution.

Mr Mackie’s relatives, including his partner and his father, were in court to hear details of his fatal dive.

Ms Beattie told the court that Mr Mackie, from Tranent, had undertaken diving training but had not been working as a diver in the year before his death.

He had been “desperate” to find a full-time job and placed an advertisement on an internet site ‘Find a Fishing Boat’, to which MacNeil replied the next day.

On being offered the chance of work, Mr Mackie was “nervous but excited”, according to his partner.

The tragedy took place on June 11, 2011.

MacNeil (55), of Somerville Road, Leven, admitted failing to have an adequate system in place or providing any equipment whereby Graeme Mackie could be monitored under water.

He also failed to provide equipment which would assist in the recovery of Graeme Mackie from the water on to the vessel in the event of an emergency and as a consequence he entered the water, resurfaced in distress, then failed to resurface again and drowned.

This was contrary to the Diving at Work regulations and the Health and Safety at Work Act.

He also admitted that as diving contractor for a project which involved scuba diving for shellfish using equipment, including electrical equipment, he failed to ensure the project was planned, managed and conducted in a manner which protected the health and safety of all taking part in it and in particular that of Graeme Mackie.

He further admitted that he failed to ensure that there were sufficient people with competence to carry out the project and any action necessary in the event of a reasonably foreseeable emergency in that he failed to have in place a stand-by diver to provide necessary assistance.

Sheriff Craig McSherry called for reports and MacNeil will be sentenced on July 29.

The family of Mr Mackie issued a statement afterwards saying: “We note the plea is an admission, finally, of guilt and responsibility for what happened. This is a difficult and emotional time for all of us and we ask that our privacy be respected at this stage.”