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Cadet drowns at the Hebrides

Date
15/08/2007
What Happened
Capsized
What Caused
Adverse environmental conditions
Casualty type/Qty
Casualty
Gender
Female
Causal Factors
Inadequate supervision
Injury Details
Drowning
Outcome
Accident suspected
Alcohol/Drugs
N/A

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Description of Incident
A coastguard unit called out to a boating accident in which a young army cadet died was sent in the opposite direction, an inquiry heard today.

A coastguard unit called out to a boating accident in which a young army cadet died was sent in the opposite direction, an inquiry heard today.

The unit was given no prior information about the cadet training exercise, further hampering its efforts.

At a fatal accident inquiry into the death of 14-year-old Kaylee McIntosh, station officer Joseph Johnstone said he found the lack of information about the location of the accident "pretty frustrating".

Kaylee, from Fyvie in Aberdeenshire, died in the training exercise last August at Lochcarnan on South Uist in the Outer Hebrides.

She drowned underneath her capsized boat after being pinned down by her life jacket.

During the third day of the inquiry at Inverness Sheriff Court today Mr Johnstone, 48, said Stornaway coastguard had initially told his team to travel the 15 miles from its base at Benbecula towards South Uist where four people were reported to be in the water.

However Mr Johnstone, station officer at Benbecula Coastguard Unit, said as he and his two colleagues made their way south, Stornoway Coastguard called again telling them to turn in the opposite direction towards North Uist.

A further call then received from Stornoway told the unit to turn for the original location in South Uist where the four people were reported to have been recovered.

Mr Johnstone said he was told when he arrived that there were ten children and three adults on the boat and he later learned that a girl was missing.

He then requested the rescue helicopter which had already left the scene and was almost back in Stornoway to return.

While Mr Johnstone maintained radio contact from the shore one of his colleagues - a local fish farmer - went out in a fishing boat and located Kaylee's capsized boat.

He said that once they located and lifted the upturned boat they "saw a leg of the young girl".

Mr Johnstone said it was normal procedure for anyone going out in the boat to inform the coastguard in advance - which the cadets failed to do.

He said: "The cadets really should have called about the conditions and said where they were going.

"It would have been far easier for us to pinpoint where they were.

"We were sent backwards and forwards through Benbecula which is pretty frustrating for us."

The inquiry has previously heard that no head count or roll call was taken before the cadets went out.

Kaylee's boat overturned after the driver tried to turn for home as conditions worsened.

A Marine Accident Investigations Branch report had previously found a failure in the head count meant it was 90 minutes before it was discovered Kaylee was missing.

The court later heard a recording of communications between the cadet and Stornoway Coastguard.

A message is initially heard from the cadet stating: "Mayday, mayday, mayday, one boat overturned."

But the coastguard is unable to establish if the incident is unfolding at Loch Skiport in South Uist or Loch Eport in North Uist.

The coastguard directed its helicopter to North Uist after receiving incorrect information that this was the location of the cadet.

At one point a member of the emergency services is heard saying: "We need these people to start telling us what they are up to because that could have been a disaster."

Major George McCallum, who was in charge of the cadets, then calls to confirm the people overboard have been rescued.

He is told by a member of the coastguard team that he should have provided clearer information.

Maj McCallum tells him there was an "awful lot of confusion" during the incident.
Supporting Information
http://www.heraldscotland.com/cadet-drowning-hearing-told-coastguard-sent-wrong-way-1.881384

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