Jury returns accidental death verdicts in Tit Bonhomme inquest

Thursday 23 May 2013 18.22
Five people lost their lives after the Tit Bonhomme hit rocks in January last year (Pic: trawlerphotos.co.uk)
Five people lost their lives after the Tit Bonhomme hit rocks in January last year (Pic: trawlerphotos.co.uk)

An inquest jury has returned verdicts of accidental death in the cases of all five fishermen who lost their lives after their trawler Tit Bonhomme hit rocks and sank in west Cork last year.

Before the verdicts were returned, the inquest heard evidence which appeared to conflict with the findings of the Marine Casualty Investigation Board's inquiry into the tragedy.

Eoghan O'Toole, a marine surveyor attached to the Department of Transport, examined the circumstances surrounding the grounding of the Tit Bonhomme for possible breaches of law.

Mr O'Toole said he was "virtually certain" that a significant and substantial change in the Tit Bonhomme's course six minutes prior to the vessel grounding had resulted from "human input".

The MCIB's conclusion was that the Tit Bonhomme had been on auto-pilot.

Mr O'Toole said it would appear that Egyptian fisherman Saied Ali Eldin had been at the helm until very shortly before the impact.

The inquest heard evidence that four of the five crew who lost their lives died of either drowning or hypothermia, while the fifth, Attia Shaban, suffered a fatal head injury.

The inquest was also told that skipper Michael Hayes suffered rib injuries and his likely survival time in the water at 10C was around half an hour.

This evening the jury returned verdicts of accidental death in all five cases.

Coroner Frank O'Connell said he believed the inquest got as close as was reasonably possible to establishing what happened the Tit Bonhomme.

Afterwards, there were calls for changes to be made in safety.

Caitlín Hayes, Mr Hayes’ wife, said he had nothing but respect for his crew, as fishermen and friends.

Five families were now grieving the loss of loved ones, and she hoped time would ease their pain.

Keywords: tit bonhomme