French trawler likely sinks due to tangled fishing gear, investigation finds
A French trawler that suddenly sank off the coast of Cornwall with the loss of its five crew members was most likely stranded at the bottom of the sea when its nets got caught in the sediment, an investigation has found.
The Bugaled Breizh sank on January 15, 2004 off the Lizard Peninsula under favorable conditions, without any apparent defect in the vessel.
The possibility that a submarine got entangled in the trawl gear and dragged the vessel underneath has been raised since it sank.
But a High Court investigation learned Thursday that the system of cables, chains, weights and nets that made up the trawling platform had been found relatively intact on the seabed.
It did not have the damage level corresponding to entanglement with a powerful and fast military submarine.
Captain Yusuf Soomro, an independent maritime investigator, performed an analysis of the evidence gathered by the French maritime accident investigation body, the Bureau of Marine Occurrence Investigation (BeaMer).
He found that one of the vessel’s trawl doors – two sheets of metal used to keep the mouth of the net open – had buried itself in sediment and mud near a depression in the seabed.
Captain Soomro said it was likely that the weight on the port trawl door caused the net to close, putting enormous pressure on one of the cables, called warps, connecting the net to the boat.
“Anytime you have an object pulled by two identical forces and one is destabilized, the other is automatically destabilized as well,” he said.
“This is exactly what happened – the geometry of the trawl rig was disrupted.”
According to the modeling, the vessel was heading northeast and the ambient conditions would have caused it to roll from side to side.
The pressure on the port warp would have caused her to tip sharply, allowing enormous volumes of water to be carried onto the main deck.
As the ship’s deck was now very close to the waterline, water would not be able to escape through the “discharge ports” which are cut out at the top of the hull.
“The vessel would have come to a stop in about five seconds, there would be increased tension on the port warp and it would have a lateral component, the vessel would turn to port and take a lateral list (inclined),” said Captain Soomro. . noted.
“The combined effect of wind and swell would reduce the stability of the vessel and prevent it from righting.”
BeaMer’s analysis revealed that water very quickly seeped into the crew quarters on board the ship.
“As more and more water settles on deck and more and more water enters the crew quarters, you reach a point where there is no going back,” said Captain Soomro.
He said that once the vessel had reached a 30 degree angle in the water, the capsize “would have been very quick”.
There was evidence that the crew of the Bugaled Breizh attempted to right the vessel by freeing the port warp of the trawl, which turned out to be 140 meters longer than the starboard warp when the vessel was recovered.
“I think the problem here is that a crash is a pretty routine thing that happens on a fishing boat, but sometimes if you don’t react to the situation properly things can quickly escalate.”
Captain Soomro said boats that get caught up usually release both chains and shut off their engines.
They can sometimes try to “squeeze” out of the hitch by moving quickly to port and starboard, but only if conditions are calm.
When asked if BeaMer’s soft hitch theory was the most plausible, he replied, “In my opinion, yes.
BeaMer was unable to determine whether the vessel was steered manually or on autopilot when it encountered difficulties, the court said.
The investigation relates only to the deaths of skipper Yves Marie Gloaguen, 45, and Pascal Lucien Le Floch, 49.
Their bodies were found within hours of the ship sinking and taken to Royal Cornwall Hospital.
This means that under English law an investigation must be held here.
The body of a third man, Patrick Gloaguen, 35, was found in a rescue but was taken to France, while the bodies of Georges Lemetayer, 60, and Eric Guillamet, 42, were never been found.
As a result, their deaths are not investigated, although their families are involved in the process.
Judge Nigel Lickley QC is expected to deliver his conclusion on the deaths on Friday, October 22