United Kingdom

Trawler captain was 'sending Whatsapp messages as vessel hit and sank a smaller boat court hears 

The skipper of a fishing trawler which sank another boat and killed three anglers on board was distracted by his Whatsapp messages, a court heard.

David Marr, 55, was sending messages to a friend as his 85ft vessel the Vertrouwen steamed down on the tiny fishing boat known as the James 2.

Brighton Crown Court was told the four anglers on board attempted to signal the commercial scallop dredger bearing down on them by shouting and waving torches.

The Vertrouwen eventually missed their smaller vessel but it was swamped by a large wave, causing it to sink.

Mircea "Mitch" Ilie, 40, Irinel Popovici, 41, and Traiam Dumitrache, 50 and Elvis Cojocariu jumped into the sea without lifebelts and attempted to swim for shore.

Brighton Crown Court heard trawler captain David Marr had been on lookout on the night of the accident in 2017

A huge search and rescue operation was launched to find the missing anglers from the James 2

Mr Cojocariu was the sole survivor.

David Marr, from Peterhead, Aberdeenshire, went on trial at Brighton Crown Court charged with failing to keep a proper lookout on board the commercial trawler contrary International Regulations on preventing a collision at sea.

The court heard it should have had two watchmen on the lookout but only David Marr was on duty.

David Richards, prosecuting, said the tragic incident happened at around 12.25am on August 6 2017 on a calm and clear night.

He said: ‘It is very clear that he was entirely unaware of the James 2. He was not paying sufficient if any attention to keeping a lookout out from his wheelhouse.

"If he had he would have seen the James 2, he would have seen the men on board as he steamed towards them and passed close by them.

"Mr Marr was attending to other matters and was unnecessarily distracted from his principle job of paying attention.

Elvis Cojocariu, the only survivor of the quartet, said in court the trawler 'just kept approaching'

Mircea "Mitch" Ilie, 40, was among the three not to make it back to shore after the accident  

Irinel Popovici, 41, also did not manage to get back to shore after their little boat sank

Traiam Dumitrache, 50, was pronounced dead after his body was pulled from the sea

"They were shouting, they were signalling like mad. Water flooded into the James 2 but the Vertrouwen carried on in the same direction and the same speed."

Only Mr Cojocariu, 45, an electrician from London, survived after he was picked up by a fisherman at dawn who was out checking his nets.

He was exhausted and suffering from hypothermia and was rushed to hospital.

Speaking through a Romanian interpreter, Mr Cojocariu said: "It just kept on approaching, It was coming, coming, coming. I saw it and its engines were booming."

"After the impact everyone was shouting: 'Help! Help!'"

The jury was told although the James 2 was more suited to inland waterways rather than the sea and lacked much of the lighting it should have had.

However, Mr Richards said, it did have navigation lights and spotlights and the men were wearing head torches.

Oliver Powell, defending, asked Mr Cojocariu how much alcohol the group had drank during the day and on the evening of the incident.

Mr Cojocariu admitted a substantial amount of alcohol including whisky, beer, wine and vodka had been drunk.

The case continues.

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