Lee Renney died after he became entangled in gear and was dragged overboard from the fishing boat Pauline Mary. He was not wearing a life jacket or carrying a knife

5 May 2017

An experienced fisherman, who was dragged overboard after becoming entangled in gear, would have had a better chance of survival if he had been carrying a knife and wearing a life jacket.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) also raised a number of other safety issues in its report into the death of 22-year-old Lee Renney.

The fisherman died after he became caught up in rope while shooting pots at a fishing ground one mile east off Hartlepool on 2 September 2016.

At the time, his brother was skippering the 8.2-metre Cygnus GM27 fishing vessel. Renney’s seven-year-old nephew and a female family friend were also on board.

Although Renney was recovered back on board 20 minutes after going into the sea, he could not be resuscitated.

The MAIB report found that although the brothers were experienced fishermen, they had only been working on the Pauline May for two days, and were laying their pots for the first time when the accident happened.

It also stated that the Pauline Mary was “heavily loaded” with pots at the time, and a safe method of shooting them had not been developed.

A blue and white fishing boat alongside a quay

Pauline Mary alongside Hartlepool Fish Quay prior to sailing showing the pots stacked on deck. Credit: Hartlepool Fish Company Ltd/MAIB

“In order to save time during the initial pot laying process, the skipper loaded two strings of 30 pots on board each time he travelled to the fishing grounds. In order to do this, the pots were stacked high on the deck and on the vessel’s steel stern rack,” noted MAIB investigators.

The MAIB said manually shooting pots from the open deck of a small potter “can be extremely hazardous, particularly due to the risk of entanglement in ropes”.

It said in such circumstances, it is vital that a safe system of work is developed, ideally one where the crew and the ropes are physically separated.

The skipper was also not monitoring Renney’s work on deck.

“Had the skipper been monitoring Lee more carefully, he might have foreseen the danger or at least reacted earlier to the emergency,” concluded the MAIB

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The investigation also identified that Renney was “not carrying a knife or wearing
a personal flotation device (PFD) while working on deck, both of which could have improved his chances of survival”.

The MAIB said it was “also not appropriate for the passengers, in particular a child, to be on board during commercial fishing operations”.

The investigation also identified that the skipper’s initial man overboard report did not include the spoken word “Mayday” or give Pauline Mary’s position.

When the skipper repeated the report, he included his location, but the quality of transmission was poor and the coastguard was unable to interpret the vessel’s position.

A blue and white fishing boat leaving Hartlepool

Pauline Mary departing Hartlepool Fish Quay. Credit: Hartlepool Fish Company Ltd/MAIB

In response, Humber Coastguard requested the launch of the Hartlepool RNLI inshore and all-weather lifeboats, and directed the launch of a search and rescue (SAR) helicopter.

Humber Coastguard repeatedly requested the crew of Pauline Mary to report the vessel’s position and to fire a flare to aid location.

“As the skipper was out on deck (hauling in the pots), the female passenger answered the radio calls and tried, with some difficulty, to read out the position from the GPS After about 5 minutes, the coastguard had clarified Pauline Mary’s position and the SAR assets were tasked accordingly,” said the report.

The MAIB has identified a number of safety lessons following their investigation including highlighting the need to wear a life jacket and to carry a knife.

It also stated that had the DSC distress alert button been pressed, the confusion over Pauline Mary’s position would have been avoided.

It also recommended that the Maritime and Coastguard Agency provide updated guidance on the carriage of passengers or guests on board commercial 
fishing vessels during operations.


7 September 2016

A 22-year-old man has died after falling from the fishing boat, Pauline May, east of Hartlepool Marina.

Cleveland Police said the man was setting lobster pots in the early evening with his brother, nephew and a woman when his foot got tangled in the ropes of the fishing net and he fell into the sea.

He was in the water for a very short time before being recovered.

The incident happened about half a mile off the Heugh Pier.

The Humber Coastguard tasked Hartlepool RNLI to attend the incident.

Both the Atlantic 85 Inshore lifeboat and the all-weather lifeboat responded.

A spokesman for Hartlepool RNLI said: “An RNLI volunteer crew member was transferred onto the fishing boat and he began medical treatment on the casualty.”

“The all-weather lifeboat arrived moments later and Hartlepool RNLI’s doctor was transferred to the fishing vessel and took over the CPR,” continued the spokesman.

“The fishing boat was escorted to Hartlepool Lifeboat Station while the medical care continued on the casualty. He was transferred to the pontoon where the all-weather lifeboat is moored and further efforts were made to revive him,” said the spokesman.

The 22-year-old man was then transferred to the care of paramedics with the Great North Air Ambulance.

Hartlepool RNLI operations manager, Mike Craddy, said: “This was a multi agency incident and despite the best efforts of all concerned we were unable to save the gentleman. Our thoughts go out to his family and friends at this sad time.”

In a statement, the Marine Accident Investigation Branch said it had “started an investigation into the fatal man overboard from a UK registered 8.2m fishing boat Pauline Mary (WY 845), east of Hartlepool, England, on 2 September 2016”.