A report into a fatal incident in which two men drowned off the Donegal coast in 2017 has found that the vessel’s crew had difficulty with the boat’s outboard engine and that the vessel may have capsized, throwing both occupants overboard.
Raimundas Jezdauskas (33) and Rimantas Barauskas (56), both originally from Lithuania, drowned off Malin Beg Head in July 2017 after heading out to sea on an angling trip.
At midday on 8 July, both men departed from Teelin Pier near Rhannakilla. They had planned to be away for the weekend and had made no arrangements to check in with anyone ashore during the trip.
During the investigation into the incident it was established that the same vessel and crew had run out of fuel on the 28 May 2017, 12 days before the angling trip, and that the Coast Guard had provided a tow from near Malin Beg Head to Teelin Pier.
The report goes on to say that during the angling trip “the wind direction was westerly and the vessel on a lee shore.”
“Without an anchor and with an unreliable engine in such a situation a vessel would quickly find itself in difficulties,” the report notes. “It is likely, given the above, that the vessel drifted into an area of surf and breaking waves. It may have been swamped or capsized throwing the occupants overboard.”
No distress call was heard but this may be due to a failure in realising the severity of the situation early on, the report notes.
On the morning of 9 July, a man who lived close to Malin Beg Head found Mr Barauskas’ body at an inaccessible part of the shoreline. Mr Jezdauskas’ body was later found by the RNLI. Mr Jezdauskas was wearing a personal flotation device when his body was found, the report notes. Mr Barauskas was not.
Damage to the boat and the spread of debris suggest that the vessel came “hard ashore in large breaking waves”.
The autopsy report on both casualties states that ‘cause of death was drowning to water’. A coroner’s report found that both men had elevated blood alcohol levels and that Mr Barauskas was seven times over the drink-driving limit for alcohol.
In conclusion, the MCIB report recommends that the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport issue a Marine Notice reminding individuals of their obligations to comply with the Code of Practice for Safe Operation of Recreational Craft.