East Lothian fisherman Peter Gray died after being dragged overboard near Dunbar, inquiry finds

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Fatal accident inquiry reveals the circumstances surrounding an experienced East Lothian fisherman’s death

A fisherman with more than 40 years’ experience died after being pulled overboard from his creel boat in waters near Dunbar in 2021.

Peter Gray died while he was on a creel boat ‘Saint Peter’ near Torness Point in East Lothian, at sometime between 8.30am and 10.30am on May 2, 2021. The 64-year-old fisherman was operating his vessel alone. He was dealing with a tangle of creels when he became caught in rope, which dragged him overboard. Later that day, a relative realised Mr Gray was missing from his boat and put out a may-day call. After the alarm was raised, a coastguard helicopter and RNLI lifeboat crews from Dunbar and St Abbs were sent out to search for the fisherman. Mr Gray was found in the water and was taken by helicopter to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. Despite emergency first aid efforts, he was pronounced dead in hospital.

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The inquiry has determined that the death was caused by “complications of ischaemic and hypertensive heart disease and immersion in water”.

East Lothian fisherman Peter Gray died in a fatal accident on his fishing vessel, which was located near Torness Point in Dunbar. (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)East Lothian fisherman Peter Gray died in a fatal accident on his fishing vessel, which was located near Torness Point in Dunbar. (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
East Lothian fisherman Peter Gray died in a fatal accident on his fishing vessel, which was located near Torness Point in Dunbar. (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

The sheriff concluded that “there were no defects in any system of working which contributed to the death”. However, he also made recommendations in an attempt to prevent other deaths in similar circumstances. He advised that ladders should be installed on fishing vessels, as well as deck dividers to keep crew clear of rope. The sheriff also recommended that fishermen carry personal locator beacons.

Mr Gray, who was a dad-of-two and a grandfather, lived in the village of Cove in the Scottish Borders, just south-east of Dunbar. He had previously served in the Merchant Navy and also volunteered for the Coastguard. Tributes were paid to the 64-year-old fisherman following the accident.

Reverend Dr Suzie Fletcher, a local minister, told the East Lothian Courier: “Peter Gray was one of the fifth generation of his family to fish from Cove, and had been out to sea doing the job he loved day in and day out for decades. His loss has left his family, the local community, many circles of fishermen and countless friends in shock. He was a kind man who was always willing to help out with anything, and loved nothing more than taking his dog for a walk in the rain or going to sunnier places for his holidays.”

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She added: “His wife and children are very grateful to all the fishermen who joined the RNLI and Coastguard in the search. The Gray family have been part of the fabric of the Cove and Cockburnspath community for generations, but the ripples of this tragic news will be felt much more widely.”

An RNLI crew from Dunbar were sent out to rescue the fisherman, but sadly he was found dead. (Picture credit: RNLI Dunbar Lifeboats)An RNLI crew from Dunbar were sent out to rescue the fisherman, but sadly he was found dead. (Picture credit: RNLI Dunbar Lifeboats)
An RNLI crew from Dunbar were sent out to rescue the fisherman, but sadly he was found dead. (Picture credit: RNLI Dunbar Lifeboats)

Dunbar councillor Norman Hampshire said: “Peter fished out of the Cove harbour which is just a few miles along the coast from Dunbar, he’s been fishing there for what must be about 40 years now, so he’s a really experienced fisherman. Obviously the fishing community here is very close-knit so all the local fishermen knew Peter, this is a real loss.”

Mr Hampshire continued: "For his family and his friends, it's a tragedy and when these things happen it brings home how dangerous a job it is that these people do everyday.”