Report finds trawler Tit Bonhomme was on auto-pilot before sinking in Glandore Harbour

Friday 05 April 2013 22.57
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Tit Bonhomme sank in heavy seas early on 15 January 2012 (pic: trawlerphotos.co.uk)
Tit Bonhomme sank in heavy seas early on 15 January 2012 (pic: trawlerphotos.co.uk)
The trawler struck Adam Island and sank in Glandore Harbour
The trawler struck Adam Island and sank in Glandore Harbour
Egyptian crewman Abdelbaky Mohammed was the only survivor
Egyptian crewman Abdelbaky Mohammed was the only survivor
Family and friends waited for days on the quay at Union Hall
Family and friends waited for days on the quay at Union Hall
The body of Michael Hayes was found on 8 February
The body of Michael Hayes was found on 8 February
Kevin Kershaw was on his first trip to sea
Kevin Kershaw was on his first trip to sea
Wael Mohammed's body was found on 22 January
Wael Mohammed's body was found on 22 January
Saied Ali Eldin was found more than three weeks after the trawler sank
Saied Ali Eldin was found more than three weeks after the trawler sank
A friend holds an image of Attea Shaban
A friend holds an image of Attea Shaban
Hundreds took part in the search, which lasted for more than three weeks
Hundreds took part in the search, which lasted for more than three weeks

An investigation into the sinking of the Tit Bonhomme trawler in west Cork in January 2012 has found that equipment on board the vessel indicates it was operating on auto-pilot when it crashed into rocks.

Captain Michael Hayes, Kevin Kershaw and Egyptian crewmen Saied Ali Eldin, Attea Shaban and Wael Mohammed died when the trawler sank in Glandore Harbour.

Wael's brother, Abdelbaky Mohammed, was the only survivor.

The Marine Casualty Investigation Board made several findings:

- Vessel operating on auto-pilot
- No warning or alarm prior to sinking
- Insufficient rest for crew caused fatigue
- Inadequate watch-keeping arrangements
- Tit Bonhomme was only supposed to carry five people
- Vessel had engine problems before sinking
- Two of crew had no basic safety training

The Tit Bonhomme left Union Hall in west Cork on Friday 13 January last year.

It was skippered by 51-year-old Michael Hayes from Co Waterford, with four Egyptian crew and 21-year-old Kevin Kershaw, who was heading to sea for the first time.

The vessel developed engine problems while fishing for prawns and white fish 15 miles south of Glandore Harbour late that Saturday night.

Mr Hayes decided to abort the trip and head back to Union Hall.

However, the trawler struck Adam Island in darkness and poor weather conditions. It sank at the entrance to Glandore Harbour at 5.35am.

The bodies of Mr Hayes, Mr Kershaw and Mr Mohammed, 35, Mr Ali Eldin and Mr Shaban, 26, were recovered in Glandore Harbour over the following 26 days.

It was one of the biggest search operations ever mounted in Ireland.

Kevin Kershaw's father said the findings of the report will not bring his son back, but if they can help others in the future it will be something.

Patrick Kershaw said he had not yet seen the report.

He said if there are any lessons that can be learned from it, that will help other fishermen in the future, that is the only thing that they can hope to achieve.

No alarm before crash

A 14-month investigation by the Marine Casualty Investigation Board indicates that the Tit Bonhomme was on auto-pilot when it struck rocks at Adam Island and sank.

There was no warning and no alarm prior to impact and the investigation was unable to establish who was on watch when the vessel hit the rocks.

The investigation report says the crew appear to have had just four to five hours' sleep in almost two days prior to the sinking.

It says the sinking was caused by fatigue among the crew and inadequate watch-keeping arrangements.

The report also says the Tit Bonhomme went to sea with six people on board, when it was only licensed to carry five.

It only had immersion suits for five people in the event of a sinking.

The report found that at least two of the crew had not undertaken statutory basic safety training.

The MCIB report has been circulated to the families of the victims, as well as to gardaí and a number of other statutory agencies.

Family and friends waited for days and, in some cases, weeks on the quayside in Union Hall as rescue teams searched for the bodies.

The bodies of Mr Shaban and Mr Kershaw were the first to be found on Thursday 19 January, four days after the trawler sank.

Weather conditions hampered the search for Mr Hayes and the two other crewmen.

Mr Mohammed's body was next to be found on Sunday 22 January.

It would be more than two weeks before the body of Mr Hayes, a father-of-five, was found on 8 February.

Mr Ali Eldin's body was the last to be recovered on Friday 10 February.