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Latest development in tug boat tragedy reinforce calls to fast track FAI legislation

Thompsons Solicitors and Unite the Union have welcomed a guilty plea from the owner of the Flying Phantom which sank in the Clyde in December 2007 killing three crew members.

Stephen Humphreys (33), Eric Blackley (57), and Robert Cameron (65) lost their lives when the tug boat capsized as it tried to guide a cargo vessel into dock in foggy weather. A fourth crewman who managed to escape was rescued from the water.

Andrew Henderson, PartnerAt the High Court in Glasgow, Svitzer Marine Limited has today (Monday) admitted a number of health and safety failings following the fatal grounding. The company admitted that it had neglected to put in place a safe operating procedure despite a similar grounding in 2000.

Andrew Henderson is a partner at Thompsons Solicitors which has acted for the families of the deceased. He said: “Today’s guilty plea is to be welcomed but we must not forget that the families of the deceased have waited an unnecessarily long time for this to come to court.

“The widows and families of the deceased have been systematically failed by a system which has prolonged their grieving process by failing to hold a fatal accident inquiry to establish a clear picture of the events leading up to their loved ones deaths on that fateful night. There has been an inability to learn lessons from the accident and prevent future tragedies due to a lack of FAI almost six years on from the deaths. 

“While Svitzer’s guilty plea will provide some comfort it remains to be seen what the High Court will deem a sufficient punishment.”

Despite numerous requests from the widows of the three men a fatal accident inquiry has never been granted. Among the findings of the investigations by the Marine Accident Investment Branch was a problem with the boat’s towing winch being released which meant the vessel it was towing caused the tug to capsize.

Pat Rafferty, Scottish Secretary for Unite the Union said: “The families of the deceased have been undeniably let down by an FAI system which is little more than a lottery as to whether tragedies like the Flying Phantom will be investigated.

“Unite has been calling on the Scottish Government to fast track legislation through the Parliament which will radically overhaul and improve the system and today simply serves to reinforce these calls not only for an FAI to determine exactly what happened on the night of 19 December 2007 but to ensure we have a robust and fit of purpose system for the future.”


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