2012 Apr 16

Investigation of Oyang 70 trawler accident started

An investigation of how six fishermen died after the trawler they were on sank in the Southern Ocean has heard how the Korean captain valued the catch over the crew of the ship.

Korean registered ship the Oyang 70 sank 740 km off the Otago coast in August 2010 but only three of the six men's bodies were recovered.

The investigator heard today what survivors told police in the minutes before the Oyang 70 sank - that the trawler was overrun with thousands of fish, panic and fear.

“The chief engineer was crying. The chief engineer cut the net, nothing happened. Water started covering the deck so I jumped into the water.

“Men crying and taking frightened to the outside of its meaning...they were terrified...yes terrified.”

Up to 120 tonnes of fish had been partially hauled on board the Oyang 70, causing the ship to list and capsize.

One of the 45 survivors estimated there was three times the normal amount of fish in the net.

“It was the biggest haul of fish they'd ever seen, with many of them being experienced fishermen.”

Crew say the captain was more interested in saving the fish than the fishermen.

A number of factors could have contributed to the end result.

A larger than normal net was used because the usual, smaller net had been damaged.

The net was supposed to have battery powered sensors attached to it to count the fish, but the sensors were not working so there was no way to tell how many fish were in the net.

Survivors told police they had never practiced evacuating the ship - although they had done fire drills.

It is disputed whether a siren alerted crew to abandon ship and they described a poorly maintained ship filled with cockroaches and lax safety standards.

The inquiry is expected to take the rest of the week.

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