A fishing-boat owner has been jailed for 15 months after two Northumberland fishermen died from carbon-monoxide poisoning.
Mark Arries, 26, from Amble, and Edward Ide, 21, who was from the town but was living in Blyth, were found dead on the fishing vessel Eshcol as it was moored in Whitby harbour in January 2014. The pair were using a gas cooker to warm the boat overnight as they slept.
Boat owner Timothy Bowman-Davies admitted failing to ensure that the ship was operated safely and that work equipment was maintained efficiently. But the 44-year-old from Haverford West, Pembrokeshire, told Leeds Crown Court this week that he did not know the men were using the cooker as a heater.
Yesterday, Judge Tom Bayliss QC rejected this basis of plea and jailed the defendant for 15 months. The judge said: “He knew the cooker was being used to heat the vessel. A simple risk assessment would have revealed the danger.”
Eshcol was not fitted with a carbon-monoxide detector and the judge said there appears to have been a ‘general ignorance within the industry’ about the dangers of carbon monoxide.
Their families described Mr Arries and Mr Ide as doting young fathers, with fishing in their blood.
Mr Arries’ fiancée, Kim Grieve, explained how one of their two twin daughters had died shortly after her birth just five months before the incident. She said Mr Arries was a devoted dad to his son, now eight, and surviving twin daughter. Ms Grieve said: “I’m heartbroken my soul mate has gone.”
His mother, Tracey Arries, said: “It breaks my heart that I lost my boy when something so small as a monitor would have saved his life.”
Mr Ide’s mother, Gail Oliver, said her world fell apart with the death of her son. His fiancée, Sarah-Louise Tait, said he was loving father to their son, now three.
Judge Bayliss said the defendant’s 19-year-old son Jake - who, as a 15-year-old discovered the bodies with a skipper from one of his father’s other two boats - had made statements to the police indicating his father did know that the cooker was being used as a heater on some occasions for short periods, but later claimed in evidence he had not said that.
The judge said, having considered evidence in the case, he thought the teenager was now trying to protect his father.
“I am quite sure what Jake said to the police was the truth, my conclusion is the defendant did know that the gas cooker was being used,” he said.
Judge Bayliss said a risk assessment should have been carried out and that Bowman-Davies had ‘turned a blind eye’ to the fact that the cooker was being used in this way.
He said that only a prison sentence was appropriate, adding: “Two men have died. Those who employ others and whose actions create risk of harm must take the consequences when harm results such as here.”
In evidence, Timothy Bowman-Davies told the court that he was unaware anybody had used the cooker for heating because there was a fan heater on board, otherwise he would have done something.
He said he was not aware of the risks of carbon monoxide on boats, did not know he should have had the gas cooker serviced, and that the Maritime and Coastguard Agency had inspected the boat 11 weeks before the ‘tragic accident’ and was ‘happy’ with its condition. He said he was devastated about the deaths.