Tuesday, May 10, 2005
Human Error to Blame for Ship Collision??
Human error to blame for ship's collision with trawler, experts believe May 10, 2005 By Lauren Cohen Port Elizabeth: The skipper of the sunken trawler, the Lindsay, has told how he was "guided by an angel" to safety as icy water flooded into his pitch-dark cabin, capsized the vessel and took all but one of his crew to the bottom of the ocean. "All I can say is, there is a God," Mossel Bay fisherman Paul Landers, 36, said from his hospital bed here yesterday. Landers was one of only two men who survived after a refrigerator ship, the Ouro do Brasil, smashed into the Lindsay's port side off Sardinia Bay early on Sunday. The sea swallowed the Lindsay within 20 seconds of the collision. Crew member John Ehlers, 37, was plucked from the chilly water by the crew of the "reefer". Landers was pushed out of the Lindsay by water pressure and was rescued from a life raft an hour later by the Lindsay's sister boat, the Lincoln. No trace has yet been found of the Lindsay's other 14 crew members. Most of the crew, employees of Cape Town company Viking Fishing, were from Mossel Bay and Cape Town. Speaking from behind an oxygen mask in his intensive care unit bed in St George's Hospital, Landers said he had been "prepared to die seven times" during the ordeal, which lasted less than five minutes. He was asleep and was awakened by the impact of the Ouro colliding with the Lindsay. "It was completely dark, but I stayed calm the whole time, even when I was sucked back into the boat when it rolled over," Landers said. "I knew that I just had to take one breath and I would die if I did not get to the next air pocket." He believed his eight years' experience on the boat possibly saved his life. "I knew my way around, even in the pitch-dark.' But it was clear the trauma haunted him, for he said repeatedly: "I shouldn't be here." Landers said he wanted to see his family and those of the many good friends he had lost. "I want to find out what happened. My only regret was that I could not save other members of the crew." The missing men were apparently asleep in the forward hold when the trawler was struck. Landers has a fractured rib and is receiving oxygen to assist with his breathing after he ingested diesel, damaging his lungs. He said he was in pain but expected to be moved out of ICU today. The number of missing crewmen has been revised from 15 to 14. The Lindsay's complement is 17, but she was a man short when she left Mossel Bay on her final voyage, officials say. Meanwhile, Mawande Jack reports that a preliminary investigation into the collision, one of the worst maritime accidents off the southern and Eastern Cape coast in recent years, began yesterday. While sea rescue officials said it was too early to say what had led to the accident, it was clear that the 178-metre refrigerator vessel had struck the 30m fishing trawler, rather than the other way around. Large ships rounding the Cape of Good Hope from east to west come closer to shore to take advantage of the Aghulas current flowing out of the Indian Ocean as this speeds their passage. From their high bridges crew members often cannot see small vessels or manoeuvre fast enough to avoid them. The station commander of the National Sea Rescue Institute here, Ian Gray, believed "human error" was involved. Joe Neft, a retired skipper with 36 years' experience in navigation, believes negligence led to the accident. "It is clear certain navigation rules were not followed by one or both vessels." Neft also speculated that the two vessels could have been so close that the larger vessel's radar was unable to detect the small trawler. The SA Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) has taken over the recovery operation from the NSRI. Samsa investigator Nigel Campbell said interviews were being conducted with leading crew members of the vessel Ouro do Brasil, which was being detained in the harbour here. The missing fishermen have not been named.