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Two companies have been fined over £600,000 in total following the ‘entirely preventable’ deaths of two men who were asphyxiated trying to rescue a colleague from the hold of a barge.

The men, Robert MacDonald from Appin and Maarten Den Heijer from Oban died in May 2009 when they went into the hold of the barge on Loch Creran near Oban and collapsed from the dangerously low oxygen levels.

Scottish Sea Farms were fined £600,000 at Oban Sheriff Court when they admitted breaching health and safety guidelines which could have saved the men’s lives.

Engineering firm Logan Inglis, one of whose employees also collapsed in the hold, were fined £40,000 after admitting a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

During the court proceedings Health and Safety principal inspector Barry Baker said that the two men’s deaths had been ‘entirely preventable’.

The court was told that engineer Arthur Raikes who was employed by Logan Inglis, and Scottish Sea Farms employee Campbell Files collapsed after going below to look for parts to repair a crane, unaware of the dangerously low oxygen levels in the hold.

Mr Raikes managed to crawl out and raise the alarm and Mr MacDonald and Mr Heijer went into the hold to try and rescue their workmate but they collapsed as well.

Emergency services raced to the scene and firemen wearing breathing apparatus brought the three men out of the hold, but were only able to revive Mr Files. The other two men were declared dead at the scene.

Among the catalogue of Health and Safety breaches detailed in court were the fact that neither company had provided proper training on the dangers of working in confined spaces or on what precautions should be taken.

The firms had not ensured the men knew how to carry out an emergency rescue, there had been no checks on the oxygen levels and air quality in the hold, and nobody on the barge appeared to be aware of the dangers of oxygen depletion.

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