Shoreham dies at sea: Captain David Marr guilty of tragedy
A TRAWLER captain who was looking at his phone instead of looking at the sea when his boat carried three men overboard to death has been jailed for 12 months.
Skipper David Brooks Marr, of Peterhead in Scotland, made a conscious decision to risk a collision at sea so he could look at his phone, a judge told him.
He could and should have seen the other boat before the washing of his scallop dredge sank it, drowning three men.
Marr was distracted sending WhatsApp messages and following his colleagues on a marine tracking app when his ship, the Vertrouwen, sank the James 2.
His Honor, Judge Christine Laing QC, told him that he had deliberately made the decision to risk a collision, resulting in unnecessary tragedy.
Marr turned on his forward-facing searchlights in an effort to hand over collision avoidance responsibility to other sailors.
Brighton Magistrates’ Court
With the lights on, his ability to monitor was reduced.
The judge told him, “It was not an error in judgment but a deliberate decision to prioritize some other activity over good supervision.”
His catastrophic decision resulted in the deaths of three men, the judge told him,
The 55-year-old grandfather listened from the dock, hands folded behind his back, to the judge describing the three friends who lost their lives as decent, hardworking family men.
“All of these men have had a number of children who have suffered perhaps the greatest tragedy a child can suffer, the loss of a parent.
“They were all hard working family men looking forward to a fun night of fishing.
The James 2 light ship was used by Romanian cronies. Photo by MAIB
“The impact of the loss of these men on their families is enormous and their grief is unimaginable.”
The judge told Marr he was an experienced sailor and captain who knew the regulations and the reasons for their existence.
The judge told her that she was convinced he had made the decision to divert his attention from keeping a watch to look at his phone.
She added: “You weren’t far from the port.
“Why couldn’t you have waited 10 to 15 minutes, I’ll never know.”
The judge compared Marr to a motorist staring off the road to text.
Marr’s boat, Vertrouwen, smoked straight to Friends’ night fishing aboard the James 2 after leaving Shoreham for Grimsby on August 6, 2017.
Vertrouwen fishing vessel.
His speed did not change and he did not attempt to avoid the 5m pleasure boat.
Romanians Mircea “Mitch” Ilie, 43, of Brighton, her brother-in-law Irinel Popovici, 41, and Traian Dumitrache, 51, were drowned after their boat sank.
Only survivor Elvis Cojocariu, then 45, from London, told Sussex Police that Mitch put the small boat at full throttle, 180 degrees, as they saw the lights of Vertrouwen heading straight towards them, but it was too late.
He was rescued after spending more than five hours hanging from a lifeline.
The court heard that James 2 had the required lights although it was not designed for use at sea and was not equipped with a radar reflector.
Elvis Cojocariu, survived a boating accident off Shoreham.
If experienced skipper Marr, with more than 30 years at sea, had watched properly from the wheelhouse of his scallop dredge, he should have seen the men on an overnight fishing trip, a jury decided.
At the critical moment, he was distracted looking at his laptop, texting WhatsApp and talking to other members of the four-man crew.
In an emotional statement from the victim read to court, Lacra Ilie, said her life and that of all the families affected by the tragedy would never be the same again.
“James is now almost six years old and I find it very difficult when he asks about his father.
“He asks me where he is and I say he’s an angel in heaven.
“I lost my husband and my only brother.
“It is incredibly difficult to be a single mom.
“The hole in our lives and hearts will be with us forever,” she said.
Mircea Ilie, on the left, and Irinel Popovici.
When asked why he was the only one to watch when guidelines recommended two, he described the incident as a tragic accident.
“During that short period of time this tragic accident happened, I don’t know if there were two of us there,” he said.
“Everything is so. We do not know.
“I did not appoint two people to watch that night.”
The sea captain told Brighton Crown Court his scallop dredge had set off from Shoreham to Grimsby with the minimum number of crew on board.
His two radar scanners should have been set at different distances, he admitted, and he couldn’t explain why they weren’t.
David Brooks Marr is accused of failing to monitor aboard ship after three men in another ship drowned off Shoreham
Data from the Vertrouwen radar could not be downloaded, the court said.
A defense expert admitted that MacDuff-owned Vertrouwen’s captain could have seen the James 2 from any angle and should have seen their lights.
Detective Superintendent Emma Heater of the Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team said: ‘David Marr was captain of the Vertouwen and he made the decision to be left alone as they left Shoreham Harbor at night.
“While he should have fully concentrated on his role, he was unnecessarily distracted by, among other things, the use of a cell phone.
“As a result of his actions, three men tragically lost their lives in an incident that was completely preventable.
“Our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who passed away that night and I hope the verdict can contribute to their closure.”
David Brooks Marr was convicted of not putting on an appropriate watch.
0007; Vertrouwen leaves Shoreham harbor
0020; Vertrouwen changes course from south to south-east
0021: 26; Mr. Marr’s iPhone has established a data connection with the Marine Tracker app
0023: 43; Mr. Marr insisted on sending the Vertrouwen’s departure message to fisheries surveillance
0024: 22; The skipper confirmed that he sent a WhatsApp message to his friend Davey Watt
0025: 45; Radar traces showed the Vertrouwen and James 2 merger
Captain Marr’s next boat after Vertrouwen was involved in the Channel Scallop War a year after the sinking of James 2.
The Peterhead-registered ship Honeybourne III was one of five British vessels in the channel when problems erupted with French fishermen.
Marr was legally fishing about 20 miles off the Normandy coast when spirits boiled and stones, smoke bombs and other projectiles were reportedly thrown at Scottish and English ships.
Jim Portus of the South West Fish Producers Organization said: “The skipper of the Honeybourne was forced to take defensive action in the face of determined French aggression.”