It was a British fishing boat, not a sailing boat, where the two men died, according to the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) report, but the dangers are the same, and all leisure sailors should be aware of any equipment on their boat which emits carbon monoxide - such as a stove or auxiliary genset. Safety authorities are recommending strongly that such boats should have a Carbon Monoxide Alarm.
Death boat Eshcol
Before going to bed in Whitby Harbour in Yorkshire on their fishing vessel Eshcol, the skipper Mark Arries (26), a father of two, and crewman Edward Ide, 21, had lit the grill of a butane gas cooker fitted in the wheelhouse in order to warm both the wheelhouse and the adjacent sleeping area.
When they were not seen as expected on the following morning, crewmen from fishing vessels tied up close by forced open the wheelhouse door.
The bodies of two crewman were then found. The gas grill was still lit, the wheelhouse next to the sleeping area was full of fumes and the two men were dead in their bunks.
The report, published today by the MAIB, also confirmed that Eshcol was not fitted with a carbon monoxide alarm.
An inquest into the deaths of skipper and his crewman, who had a four month old son, has been opened and adjourned.
In Britain, between 1 Sept 1995 and 31 Aug 2012, there were 23 deaths aboard boats due to carbon monoxide poisoning.
Safety issues arising:
1. Gas cookers are designed for cooking, not domestic heating. Accommodation areas need to be heated, especially during the winter months and, for this, appropriate, purpose built heaters are required.
2. Fossil fuel burning appliances, such as cookers, need to be checked and maintained to ensure they are in good condition. A yellow flame indicates poor combustion, resulting in an excess of carbon monoxide that, in a poorly ventilated space, can quickly build up to lethal levels.
Petrol-driven generators, frequently found aboard sailing boats, are also producers of carbon monoxide and the exhaust needs to be placed carefully so that internal areas of the boat are not filled with the gas.
3. Carbon monoxide is a lethal gas, which has no smell, no taste, is colourless and is extremely difficult for human senses to detect. Crew need to be vigilant and recognise the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning, which can include: headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, tiredness, confusion, stomach pain and shortage of breath.
4. Carbon monoxide alarms are not expensive and should be fitted. When selecting a carbon monoxide alarm, preference should be given to those marked as meeting safety standard EN 50291-2:2010, which are intended for use in a marine environment.
For the full report, click here.