Edinburgh docks major incident: Ship tipping in Leith dry dock was 'so scary' worker says

Witness reacts to “catastrophe” as ship tips at Leith dry docks in Edinburgh
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A worker on the dock where 33 people were injured when a ship tipped over in high winds has said it was "so scary". The Scottish Ambulance Service said 21 people were taken to hospital following the incident in Leith, Edinburgh, while a further 12 were treated and discharged at the scene on Wednesday morning, March 22.

James Walsh is a scaffolder on the docks and was working nearby when he heard a "loud noise". The 39-year-old said: "It wasn't as noisy as you would think, for the catastrophe that it could possibly be. We stopped what we were doing. I'm the foreman, so I just evaluated the situation, we were on the docks further up and we were advised we were fine where we were."

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He spoke to one worker he knows on the ship, and said he told them: "He had just put his tool bag down and thought 'I'm going to nip to the toilet', went away to the toilet, and he said he doesn't know where his workmates were. It's scary. Very scary. Just makes you evaluate everything really. No-one goes to work to be involved in any kind of accident. It's so scary that you go to work and something like that can possibly happen. It's bad enough having a near accident, that's scary enough, or a minimal accident, but something like that in this day and age."

Leith Docks Major Incident: Ship tipping in dry dock and injuring 33 people was 'so scary', worker saysLeith Docks Major Incident: Ship tipping in dry dock and injuring 33 people was 'so scary', worker says
Leith Docks Major Incident: Ship tipping in dry dock and injuring 33 people was 'so scary', worker says

The ambulance service said 15 patients were taken to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, four to Western General Hospital and two to Victoria Hospital. A major incident was declared as police, ambulance, the fire service and coastguard were called to a report that a ship had become dislodged from its holding at Imperial Dock at about 8.35am. The ambulance service sent 12 ambulances, an air ambulance, three trauma teams and other resources to the scene. Pictures show the Petrel, understood to be owned by a branch of the US Navy, leaning at a 45-degree angle in the dry dock. The 76m (250ft) research vessel was previously bought and outfitted by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and was sold by his estate in 2022.

Colin Agnew, 33, who works on the docks, said: "We just heard noise and we wondered what it was and then all of a sudden you were hearing all the police, fire engines, and the ambulance come in. It was crazy because you wouldn't think you would hear that down by here. It was just crazy." Port chaplain Pauline Robertson, from the Sailors' Society, said the incident was "just horrific" and said: "Those that witnessed it, it's so much to take in. It's surreal in so many ways and it's a lot to process."

Leith councillor Adam McVey said the ship became dislodged in strong winds. He tweeted: "Terrifying for those on board, my thoughts are with those who've been injured & hope everyone recovers quickly. Please avoid area."A wind speed of 38mph was recorded in Edinburgh at 8am on Wednesday while a 44mph gust was recorded at 9am, according to Met Office data.

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Police Scotland said all casualties were removed by 1.20pm and officers remain at the scene. Superintendent Mark Rennie said: "There is no risk to the wider public and inquiries are ongoing to establish the full circumstances of what has happened. The Health and Safety Executive has been informed." NHS Lothian earlier said it was "on standby to receive a number of patients" at the A&E department at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary from the scene and urged others not to attend unless in an emergency.

Mr Allen bought the ship to locate historically significant shipwrecks and it discovered around 30 sunken warships, including the Japanese Imperial Navy's IJN Musashi. The Petrel has been moored at Leith since September 3, 2020 due to "operational challenges" from the pandemic, according to a statement on the vessel's social media page.