Portadown Pikers could have been saved by ‘basic equipment’

Daryl Burke

Daryl Burke

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The lives of two fishermen from Portadown Pikers Club who died last year could have been saved if their poorly-repaired boat had been fitted with basic safety equipment.

Dublin’s Marine Casualty Investigation Board revealed in an official report on Wednesday that there were holes in the 4.2 metre flat-bottomed craft.

Daryl Burke, 30, and David Warnock, 27, died after the vessel they had borrowed for a camping and fishing trip on Lough Ree sank last March.

A crucial joint between the deck and the hull was in poor condition, while several large drill holes were found on the upper side of the boat, known as the gunwale.

Furthermore, the accident investigators said the transom, or back of the boat, was poorly repaired after suffering previous damage.

“It had several holes in it, possibly as a result of fitting different types of outboard brackets over the lifetime of the vessel,” it said in an official report into the tragedy.

It is believed these holes were 50mm below water level at the time the men set out on the boat from Hodson Bay towards their camping site and were letting up to three litres of water into the boat every minute.

A survivor said no significant wave hit the boat and that it sank very quickly from the stern, or the rear of the vessel.

While there were three people on board, the only safety equipment was two life-jackets.

“Had the boat been equipped with flares and a VHF radio it is possible that the rescue services would have arrived at the scene earlier and perhaps have saved the lives of the two casualties,” the investigation found.

Mr Burke from Portadown left behind three young sons and his pregnant wife Louise, 28, who later gave birth to their first daughter.

Mr Burke and Mr Warnock, from Richhill, and a third friend, 60-year-old John Trimble, who survived, were among a group of six friends using two boats on a fishing trip on March 20, 2014.