Fishing boat skipper faces court over diver death

Graeme Mackie was devoted to his young son. Picture: contributed
Graeme Mackie was devoted to his young son. Picture: contributed
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THE skipper of a fishing boat will stand trial in June accused of a string of health and safety failures which led to a diver drowning while fishing for scallops.

Ronald MacNeil, 55, captain of the vessel Rob Roy, denies being culpable for the errors which allegedly led to the death of diver Graeme Mackie in June 2011.

Mr Mackie, 31, a father-of-one, from Tranent, died during a scallop-fishing expedition in the Firth of Forth.

MacNeil appeared at Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court yesterday to face charges alleging he failed to provide proper training, supervision and adequate safety equipment in the run-up to the incident on June 13, 2011.

After his death, the family of Mr Mackie paid tribute to a “loving, caring man”, who was devoted to his young son.

Mr Mackie was among a party of scallop divers on board the Rob Roy fishing vessel on the expedition. Fellow divers raised the alarm when they failed to see the expected signs that he was rising to the surface after he went into the sea near Methil Docks. As lifeboats rushed to the scene two divers from a nearby catamaran managed to pull Mr Mackie unconscious from the water.

He was transferred to the Kinghorn RNLI inshore lifeboat, which had a paramedic and oxygen on board and was also given further treatment on shore.

A rescue helicopter from RAF Boulmer in Northumberland was scrambled and Mr Mackie was airlifted from Methil to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, where he was pronounced dead a short time later.

Prosecutors say MacNeil failed “to provide equipment which could have assisted in the recovery of Mr Mackie from the water on to the vessel, while he was working, in the event of an emergency and in consequence, Graeme Mackie, whilst working as a diver on the project, entered the water, resurfaced in distress and thereafter failed to resurface whereby he drowned”.

He is also accused of failing “to ensure that the project was planned, managed and conducted in a manner which protected the health and safety of all persons taking part in it, and particularly Graeme Mackie, now deceased, who was employed by you as a diver in relation to the project”.

MacNeil, of Somerville Road, Leven, Fife, pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

Sheriff Alistair Thornton set a trial date for June at Dunfermline Sheriff Court.

newsen@edinburghnews.com