Transportation Safety Board of Canada’s Report of Crew Member Laura Gainey Lost Overboard Sail Training Vessel Picton Castle 376 nm SSE of Halifax, Nova Scotia 08 December 2006

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada finally issued their report this week concerning the loss overboad of Laura Gainey in December of 2006.  You can view the entire Safety Board report on line here.

Not surprisingly, the Board also leveled some substantial criticism at the sail training industry in general and has recommended increased safety and training standards and management systems be adopted by the industry.

Here is the Gainey family’s statement about the Safety Board report:

The Gainey family fully supports the findings of the Transportation Safety Board of Canada’s investigation in its report released today, and we urge Transport Canada to act on the safety concerns raised in this report.

The Board’s findings support that Laura was a hard working and dedicated member of the crew, who took her responsibilities very seriously. It was in the execution of her duties, extremely fatigued and under very difficult circumstances that she was swept off the ship. We are very proud of our Laura.

The report identifies several causes and factors that contributed to the accident, including the absence of effective onboard communication, the lack of safety nets and harnesses and fatigue. It suggests that the decision to sail was flawed.

This report should be compulsory reading for everyone associated with the sail training industry, and it would be valuable for anyone involved in the adventure tourism industry. It is a case study for ensuring that stringent safety and risk management systems be in place.

The Picton Castle has made some changes, there is still more that can be done. We would ask the owners and master of the ship to fully implement an audited safety management system, to set a standard of excellence for their industry and to rigorously maintain it.

We also ask, given the mystifying and disappointing action of the Cook Islands Registry over the last 20 months, that the Picton Castle terminate this relationship and register the ship under a Canadian flag.

Our goal was to find out what led to Laura’s death, and the TSB’s thorough and independent investigation has given us this information. We are grateful for this and for the closure it brings.

Finally, our thoughts are often with the crew and trainees who were on board this fateful voyage in December 2006, we are thankful for their exceptional efforts in trying to recover Laura in such challenging conditions. We know they did their best with the tools they had available to them.

Picton Castle

Here is Captain Dan Moreland’s October 30, 2008 response to the Safety Board report:

We have reviewed the report issued by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada regarding its investigation into the tragic loss of Laura Gainey on December 8, 2006 from the sail training ship, the Barque Picton Castle. We respectfully acknowledge the professional work of the investigators, and accept their recommendations.

Their findings confirm our strongly held belief that Laura was obeying orders and carrying out her tasks as the excellent crewmember she was onboard the Picton Castle. Our thoughts go out to the Gaineys as they have since that horrible night almost two years ago.

The purpose of this ship is to do good, not harm. It is not truly possible for me to express how devastatingly sorry I and all of us who work with the ship are for the loss of Laura. Laura was a remarkable young woman, treasured by all her shipmates. She will be deeply missed always.

The loss of Laura has led to an intense review and scrutiny of safety equipment and all practices and procedures aboard the Picton Castle, including an in-depth independent Extraordinary Safety Audit and Transport Canada inspections.

We mean to learn all we can from this tragedy. This process is ongoing. The spirit that Laura brought to this ship will sail with us always.

Captain Daniel Moreland
Master, Barque Picton Castle
Cascais, Portugal

I’ve written a bit about this casualty before so I won’t rehash it here. I hope that this report will finally allow both the Gainey family and Picton Castle community to move forward. I’m sure that it will also serve as document for thought and action by the sail training community as it continues to look for ways to more effectively and safely give young people life shaping experiences.

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Peter A. Mello

Husband, father, son. Lifelong mariner, student of leadership, photographer. Professional creative placemaker.

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