TWAM 17 MARCH 2018
TWAM 17 MARCH 2018

Dianne trawler tragedy: Urgent changes after probe

A CORONER investigating the tragic deaths of six fishermen who died when their trawler flipped off the Queensland coast has called for urgent changes within the industry.

Central Coroner magistrate David O'Connell has today delivered his findings from an inquest into the sinking of the FV Dianne, an 18-metre sea cucumber trawler flipped in rough seas north of 1770 on October 16, 2017.

The inquest also investigated the sinking of prawn trawler FV Cassandra which capsized north of Fraser Island in April 2016. Neither of its two crew have ever been found.

Only one of Dianne's seven-man crew survived when the boat rolled about 7.30pm, trapping its crew inside for hours before it sank hours later around 11pm.

Sea cucumber trawler the FV Dianne.
Sea cucumber trawler the FV Dianne.

Magistrate O'Connell today made a number of recommendations for industry changes including that the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries immediately implement the sharing of its 'failure to poll' function of the Vessel Monitoring System that would alert police via SMS and email when a vessel didn't check in.

He also recommended:

That the fishing industry be encouraged to place 'grab bags' of basic equipment to assist crew to escape capsized vessels.

That self-illuminating LED strip-lighting and emergency exit signs be installed in all existing vessels within two years and after that period, it become a mandated requirement in all commercial fishing vessels

That the industry be encouraged to secure all bulky items in a wheelhouse to stop movement in a capsizing event

That fishermen be encouraged to wear inflatable vests fitted with personal locator beacons when working on the decks or at the helm

That authorities investigate ways to ensure doors on vessels can be opened against water pressure

That authorities ensure all vessels have up to date plans of the layout and any modifications

Ruben McDornan was the sole survivor of the Dianne sinking.

He miraculously escaped from the upturned vessel, clinging to its hull before it sank and then treading water for more than eight hours before he was rescued by a passing yacht.

The FV Dianne’s sole survivor Ruben McDornan arrives at the Gladstone Courthouse. Picture: AAP/Aaron Bunch
The FV Dianne’s sole survivor Ruben McDornan arrives at the Gladstone Courthouse. Picture: AAP/Aaron Bunch

Mr McDornan was trapped inside the boat with his mates skipper Ben Leahy, Adam Bidner, Zach Feeney, Adam Hoffman, Chris Sammut and Eli Tonks, before he managed to escape.

He then spent hours listening to his friends scream as they tried to escape the trawler.

The bodies of Mr Tonks, 39, Mr Bidner, 33, Mr Feeney, 28, and Mr Sammut, 34, have never been found.

Police divers found the bodies of Mr Hoffman, 30, and Mr Leahy, 45, trapped inside the sunken hull.

During the inquest, counsel assisting the coroner John Aberdeen said it took only "a matter of seconds" for the Dianne to capsize, but hours for it sink.



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