Court case after 2010 accident off St Abbs

Local lifeboats were joined in the search for the missing fishermen by other lifeboat crews and fishing boats
Local lifeboats were joined in the search for the missing fishermen by other lifeboat crews and fishing boats

The officer in charge of a passenger ferry which collided with a fishing boat off the Berwickshire coast in 2010 appeared in Glasgow High Court last week.

Pasquale Miccio, aged 48, who was on the bridge of the Scottish Viking from Rosyth to Zeebrugge on August 5, 2010, admitted that he failed to change course or heed warnings from crew members as the vessel sailed past St Abbs Head where prawn boats were fishing.

As a result of the ferry colliding with one of the fishing boats, the Homeland, teenage fisherman Daniel McNeil (16) died and his 20 year old brother Joseph who had been skippering the boat was pulled from the water.

More than 20 fishing vessels and lifeboats were involved in the search for Daniel who was from Tynemouth, but it wasn’t until November that year that fishermen found his body.

When his remains were brought into Eyemouth harbour Det Insp Jim Robertson from Lothian and Borders police, said: “Finally, Daniel McNeil’s family has some closure following his identification and our deepest sympathies are with them at this time as they come to terms with their loss.”

A report by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch published in 2011 found the ferry, carrying 47 crew and 259 passengers, had shown “complacency and lack of precautionary thought”.

Investigators said the tragedy happened because “those responsible for the watch on either vessel had not taken sufficient action”.

At Glasgow High Court last week Miccio admitted failing to change course or heed warnings. He had originally faced a charge of culpable homicide, but his plea to the lesser charge was accepted by the Crown.

Advocate depute Andrew Brown QC, prosecuting, told the court that after the collision both brothers scrambled on to the wheelhouse roof, but within seconds their boat sank.

They had not had time to put their lifejackets on and two other trawlers had gone to their aid.

The MAIB report concluded a number of factors led to the collision.

It said watch-keeping on the ferry did not monitor or plot the path of the Homeland sufficiently and, once a risk of collision was deemed to exist, failed to take sufficient action to avoid it, identifying “complacency and lack of precautionary thought” on the Scottish Viking as well as “ineffective implementation of the company’s navigation policy and procedures”.

The manager of Scottish Viking, owned by Italian firm Visemar, took action to improve performance following the collision which meant the MAIB it did not need to make safety recommendations.

Defence QC Dorothy Bain said Miccio made a “profound and heart-felt apology” to Mr McNeil’s family.”

Miccio faces an unlimited fine or a maximum of two years in prison when he is sentenced next month.