Update (Oct. 17, 2007) – Oliver Moore of the Globe and Mail wrote “Stories don’t add up in death at sea – Company disputes investigator’s claims that crew was too tired, understaffed” According to the article, the Picton Castle has issued a press release refuting each of the safety issues cited in the Transportation Safety Board’s letter to the Cook Islands Maritime Authority about the casualty.
Update (Oct. 16, 2007) – CBC News reports that Picton Castle owners, Windward Isles Sailing Ship Company have responded to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada’s letter “disputing claims there were safety and operating violations when Laura Gainey was swept overboard and lost at sea.”
Charles Mandel of CanWest News Service wrote an article today for the National Post (Canada) entitled “Poor safety, fatigue may have led to Gainey death”
This story focuses on a letter issued by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada about an incident that took place last December aboard the tall ship Picton Castle when Laura Gainey, a trainee/crew member, was washed overboard by a rogue wave. The vessel was making a transit from Lunenburg, NS, Canada to the Caribbean to prepare for the filming of the CBS’s short lived reality TV series, Pirate Master.
While the Picton Castle hails from Lunenburg, NS, she is registered in the Cook Islands whose maritime authority has responsibility for investigating the casualty; they have not yet made their report public.
According to the National Post article, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada’s letter states that Gainey had been up for 22 hours before the incident which may have caused her to be fatigued and been a contributing factor to her death. Additionally, the article states that the letter cites “a number of “safety issues,” including a lack of marine emergency training among the ship’s crew; absence of emergency crew drills; and the fact that crew did not make a regular practice of wearing safety harnesses on deck at night or during inclement weather while the ship was sailing.”
This was a tragic case for all involved, most especially the family, friends and shipmates of Laura Gainey. However, it must serve as a sober reminder that going to sea always has and always will carry a certain level of risk. It is an alien environment that challenges us and that is one reason why it is such an incredibly powerful teaching platform and learning experience. We need to take every step necessary to effectively manage, mitigate and eliminate the risk. After that, we must be forever vigilant regarding our own personal safety and that of our shipmates and the seaworthiness of the ship and her endeavour.
Again, our hearts and thoughts go out to Laura’s family, friends and shipmates.