There were numerous “tripping hazards” at a North Devon harbour in which a trawlerman fell to his death, an inquest has heard.
Father-of-two Jamie Barbeary died three years ago at Ilfracombe Harbour, hours after his vessel was due to leave for a fishing expedition in the Bristol Channel.
The skipper was due to leave on the Olivia Belle with two other crew members shortly after midnight on October 12, 2009. But Mr Barbeary did not show up, and his lifeless body was found, at low tide in the harbour shortly after sunrise.
It is believed he fell more than 20ft (6.5 metres) while trying to access the Olivia Belle, striking his head on the concrete plinth of a fuelling berth where the vessel had been moored.
The inquest in Exeter heard Mr Barbeary, 37, was nearly three times the legal drink-drive limit when a sample of his blood was taken and examined.
But Joanna Fitzgerald, Health and Safety Executive inspector, said today there were hazards at the harbour, following site visits to the location. She said: “There were nets and equipment and various floor-level obstructions. Any of these could constitute a tripping hazard.”
The hearing was told some fishermen had identified “quayside access issues” when getting on to some vessels, with a gap of around 3ft (a metre) needing to be crossed in order to get from the harbourside to the Olivia Belle when it was moored at the fuelling berth.
Miss Fitzgerald said that during one site visit she did not get onto the boat because she “wasn’t sure I would get safely from ladder to vessel”. She said that some lights at the harbour were inoperable, although harbour master Robin Lawson said that would have had “very little if any bearing at all” on the visibility around the Olivia Belle.
The inquest was told Mr Barbeary had been seen drinking at a nearby pub in the hours before he died, after the crew onboard another vessel warned the father-of-two the weather was not good for fishing, forcing the Olivia Belle to delay her trip. Mr Barbeary’s colleague, James McAuley, said he was waiting onboard the vessel a few hours before its rescheduled departure when he heard a bang, as though someone had fallen against the boat, but could not find anything when he went to investigate in the darkness.
Mr Lawson said CCTV footage showed a man he strongly believed to have been Mr Barbeary walking along the harbour before going to step onto the Olivia Belle. However, the camera footage cut to another view of the harbour at that moment, meaning it was impossible to say from the footage what happened to the man, who had vanished by the time the camera panned back to the boat.