AN inquiry into the sinking of the fishing trawler FV Horizon has found that a charging mobile phone was most likely the cause of the outbreak of a fire that engulfed the vessel.
The FV Horizon departed Union Hall on May 11th 2021 for a gill net fishing trip with four crew members on board and on the evening of May 13th the vessel was fishing approximately 30 nautical miles (NM) south southeast of the Old Head of Kinsale.
Later that evening, with the crew on deck hauling nets, the skipper noticed smoke around the accommodation cabin door in the galley. He then descended into the galley flat and grabbed an extinguisher. He could see down into the accommodation cabin where there was thick smoke. He was able to descend a few rungs of the ladder, but unable to enter the cabin or seek out the source of the fire as he was beaten back by smoke.
The Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) report into the incident stated that the skipper directed two of the crew to release and launch the liferaft. He also directed the other crewmember to gather the survival suits and emergency gear from the wheelhouse deck store, and muster on the top deck while he again attempted to tackle the source of the smoke with fire extinguishers. When he opened the accommodation door, he was immediately beaten back, choking with smoke which he described as ‘dark’.
He realised at this point that the fire was serious and beyond the ability of the crew to extinguish with the equipment he had on board. He went back into the wheelhouse and made a distress ‘mayday’ broadcast from the marine VHF radio. The time was 1.40am and the broadcast was received by Valentia Coast Guard radio who re-broadcast the ‘mayday’ distress call to all ships in the vicinity.
The crew were rescued by the Fast Rescue Craft (FRC) from the ship Pathfinder at 2.19am and transfered to the Courtmacsherry lifeboat.
The FV Horizon sank later that day.
The MCIB report found that while the ignition source for the outbreak of the fire in on board is not known with any certainty, it is reasonably deduced that an unattended mobile phone, or other similar electronic device, in the process of being charged, and/or an electronic device battery charger into a 240V AC circuit in the crew accommodation cabin, may have been the source of ignition for this fire and was a ‘causative’ factor for the fire on board the vessel.
The report also found that the cabin smoke detectors did not work and stated that, had the fire detection system on board been more inline with the more stringent requirements of the International FSS Code, which requires the fire detection system to include both audible and visual fault signals, the fire in the accommodation cabin would likely have been detected earlier.
The MCIB report also found that two of the vessel’s crew did not have the required BIM safety training courses completed.