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Royal Navy put lives at risk, says Ardglass skipper of dragged trawler

By Allan Preston

Published 14/10/2016

Criticism: Paul Murphy
Criticism: Paul Murphy

The skipper of an Ardglass trawler towed at speed through the Irish Sea after a submarine became snagged in its nets has said the "amateurish" Royal Navy has questions to answer.

Paul Murphy and his three crew members on the The Karen were dragged backwards at seven knots in April 2015 when the submarine became entangled in his ship's nets 15 miles from Ardglass.

A report by the Marine Accident Investigation (MAIB) said the lives of the fishing trawler crew were put at risk.

The MAIB investigators added that the Navy had shown a "reluctance to fully engage", waiting five months before confirming one of its submarines had been involved. It was also 10 months before it provided evidence.

It later transpired that the submarine's commanders had failed to realise they had passed beneath a fishing vessel with a net, rather than a merchant or passenger vessel.

"The navy have been very standoffish so I think the investigation is incomplete," Mr Murphy said.

"They've not answered why the submarine chose to go down the Irish Sea at huge speed on such a busy day, putting 61 trawlers at risk."

He recalled the incident as "like 30 seconds of sheer terror". "The boat near enough stopped and I went off my feet - I knew straight away it wasn't normal," Mr Murphy said.

"We sometimes catch nets on the seabed and the boat will stop. I looked over the side and saw it was going rapidly astern and something was towing us."

The vessel only became free after a cable attached to the nets snapped from the strain.

"I was in the wheel house wondering how we would escape," Mr Murphy explained. "I remember looking at the crew and wondering which way they were going to jump off the boat... I could see it in their eyes."

After the crew checked for damage, the skipper said he was too shocked to even speak. "I was just shaking, I wanted to call the coastguard," he added. "I tried to grab the microphone, but my hand was shaking that much I couldn't do it. It took me 10 minutes to recover myself."

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