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November 21, 2012

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Teenager drowned during “shambolic” army boat trip

A man has pleaded guilty to safety breaches after a teenager drowned when the boat she was travelling in capsized during an Army cadet camp.

Inverness Sheriff Court heard Kaylee McIntosh, 14, was one of a number of cadets being transported by boat between Loch Carnan and Lock Skipport, on 3 August 2007.

George McCallum was in charge of the boating operation and was coxman of the vessel in which Kaylee was traveling. There were eight cadets and four adults on board, but only ten seats.

McCallum had also fitted a machine gun to the bow. Although, the addition of the firearm didn’t overload the boat, it did make the craft lower at the front.

McCallum had placed the engine off-centre inside the boat, so the boat leant towards the port side. He also failed to activate the craft’s bailing device, which would have released water that was collected inside the boat.

The weather created choppy conditions, and due to the boat tilting on the bow and port sides, water started to splash inside. McCallum instructed passengers to move over to the stern side to compensate against the excess water, but when they moved the boat capsized.

No head-count or note of names were taken before the boats departed, nor was there a formal record on or offshore of who was on the water. Kaylee was trapped underneath the upturned hull and she was unable to free herself as the adult lifejacket she was wearing pinned her under the boat when she inflated it.

Sergeant Vicky Lorimer, an instructor, escaped from under the boat and promised Kaylee she would come back for her. But, in her panic, she forgot to immediately inform anyone that Kaylee was trapped.

When a headcount of survivors was carried out, no one noticed Kaylee was missing and the coastguard was advised that all the cadets had been rescued. She was subsequently recovered from under the upturned hull more than three hours after the initial distress call was made. She was airlifted to hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

HSE inspector Douglas Conner told SHP that McCallum had failed to adequately plan and identify the risks involved, and no written risk assessment had been created. He said: “The transportation of cadets by craft required adequate planning and assessment of the risks involved, and the accused failed in his duties to carry out both of these crucial elements to ensure that Kaylee and other cadets involved in the activity were safe.
 
“Those failings resulted in the entirely avoidable loss of the life of a young girl.”

McCallum appeared in court on 19 November and pleaded guilty to breaching s7(a) of the HSWA 1974. He was fined £5000 but no costs were awarded as the case was heard in Scotland.

In mitigation, McCallum expressed his remorse for the incident and said he had fully cooperated with the investigation and entered an early guilty plea.

The Daily Record reported that Sheriff William Taylor made it clear he felt McCallum shouldn’t be the lone scapegoat.

The Sheriff launched a scathing attack on the organisation of the expedition, which he slammed as “shambolic”. In delivering his sentence, he said: “McCallum was just one cog in a much larger wheel and the activities involved others, as well as him. It is my hope matters will not end here today.”

The HSE has also initiated Crown Censure proceedings against the Ministry of Defence in relation to the incident.

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Andrew
Andrew
9 years ago

I’m an ex-Cadet and ex-soldier; the female Sergeant was a ACF Adult Instructor and therefore as militarily trained as a Scout Group leader. It not correct to try and attach blame to her, because a quick ride in a fast boat could well have been the most exciting thing in her life too. The ACF is a youth organisation that receives sponsorship from the MoD; it is NOT part of the MOD. ACF Instructors are well meaning volunteers, but they’re not soldiers.

Angus Kaye
Angus Kaye
8 years ago

This tragedy was preventable at many levels. The Major in charge has only been fined so little because of crown censure. Adult instructors in the ACF are paid volunteers who are entitled to wear the rank of Sergeant after a one week basic instructional course. The only simularity between the ACF and regular forces is the uniform.

Armouredwing
Armouredwing
9 years ago

At this point the finger pointing serves no purpose. A child has died because of some VERY careless decisions and actions. Risks were taken that shouldn’t have by an organisation that should be equipped and experienced to plan such activities to prevent this type of accident. Whilst some can say ‘it doesn’t happen in my backyard’ what’s to say that the failures presented here are not more widespread? As the saying goes, ‘trust is good, checking is better’. Who is doing the checking nationally?

Bob
Bob
9 years ago

The article above fails to mention the lack of known coordinates of this tragedy, no GPS and they only had ordinace survey maps on them. This signficantly delayed the rescue team according to the HSE website.

Amazing how they can send a rocket down a chimney virtually, but they can`t be arsed to accurately direct the rescue of children?

The MOD should hang their head in shame, and as for the so called Sergeant, words fail me, exept for foul ones that is?

Bob
Bob
9 years ago

The same person who panicked, participated in this incident from its conception to fateful conclusion.

To fail to regonise persons under your control are missing is truely appalling.

And as for panicking, its not as if they came under bombardment. I thought these people were trained to within an inch of their lives?

Boats capsise when overloaded.

If not reckless what do you call it?

A child is dead because no one thought to stop and think? she deserved better from all concerned

Bob
Bob
9 years ago

Key findings from HSE investigation item No 7

7) There was also a lack of knowledge regarding the precise location of the route. None of the coxswains (or any other adults) had nautical charts on their craft. Instead, all were equipped with ordnance survey maps. As has been previously stated, those instructors who made the initial Mayday call were unable to accurately state their location to the coastguard.

Unproffessional and unforgivable? I make no apology.

Bob
Bob
9 years ago

Not one of the brave (best trained in the world) leaders spoke out against such folly

They failed from concept to conclusion resulting in a fatality, this was not an accident in the true sence of the word, as it was highly likely given the circumstances of over loading and poor posistioning of weight therein, choppy water etc. etc..

All obvious risks prior to setting off.

Whilst I commend your support of abject failure, lessons learned will not bring back this child?

As a parent I weep.

Bob
Bob
9 years ago

With 30 yrs in an industry with a high rate of serious accidents and fatality, no one has died on my watch.

lessons learnt?

Do not over load a vessel
Do not unevenly distribute the load about a vessel
Take heed of the weather conditions affecting safe passgae
Know where you are
Know who is with you and in your charge
Know your limitations
Bravado does not equate to bravery

I think these are self evident?

Your stance on their defence is your right, my dissmay is mine!

Bob
Bob
9 years ago

If more people are present than seats available is not overloading, it is overcrowding, either way significantly increasing risk. And given the addition of excess kit the overall distribution of load becomes more problamatic.

The issue of panic equates to a lack of control and perspective, both areas which trained personnel must be able to rationalise in order to function objectively.

And failing to identify risk evokes panic by having no plan to control it thereafter.

Good debate I think?

Bobryan
Bobryan
9 years ago

What a tragic and totally avoidable event.
Does this not focus even more the importance of the excellent guidance and legislation that has been introduced under the Health & Safety umbrella?
Regular activities of this nature probably use the same equipment, follow the same routines and involve people of a similar age and level of knowledge and training and therefore does it not make sense to spend sometime on developing initial policies, guidance and risk assessments.

So so sad.

Csandifo
Csandifo
9 years ago

It’s amazing that a person can overload a boat and none of the adults object. It’s even more amazing that a simple head count of the children is not taken and that they aren’t fitted with the correct emergency equipment. What sort of sergeant leaves a child and then can’t even remember that she is alone and in the dark waiting for help. As a former teacher I’d have been sacked and prosecuted for such incompetence. Lessons learned aren’t much help to the poor girl and her family

Eetaylor
Eetaylor
9 years ago

Bob, Having worked with Cadets in the past (and been a Cadet myself) I know that for these kids this was a great adventure for them – that went desperately wrong. AND LESSONS WILL HAVE BEEN LEARNT.

Our Armed Forces are amongst the best trainers in the world and safety is given the highest priority. The delay of the ‘rescue team’ was not an issue as you imply; as sadly it was 3 hours after the event that the poor girl was missed.

Eetaylor
Eetaylor
9 years ago

To imply that the MOD is reckless with the safety of young Cadets is shameful of you. I KNOW IT IS FAR FROM THE CASE. Thousands of kids thrive on opportunities presented by membership of the Cadet Force and nearly always without serious incidents.

With regards to your comment on the Sergeant Instructor, I say shame on you. How do you think that woman feels; knowing the consequences of her inaction? Have you ever been in a real life-threatening situation? Have you never panicked?

Eetaylor
Eetaylor
9 years ago

Bob, use a spell-checker
Ordnance Survey Maps, significantly; except…

and remove the unnecessary words – it lowers the professionalism of the Forum; you know which word I refer to!

Eetaylor
Eetaylor
9 years ago

“And as for panicking, its not as if they came under bombardment. I thought these people were trained to within an inch of their lives?” What a crass remark.

Eetaylor
Eetaylor
9 years ago

Who said “brave (best trained in the world?)” I didn’t. There were failings in this desperate case and I do not support “abject failure.” Most of recognise the failures (thanks for listing them for those that did not).

Let me remind you of first principles in accident investigation – learn from your mistakes and in this incident some very hard lessons have been learnt. Every day we read about accidents; another parent will lose a child somewhere soon – but it will not be because no-one cared.

Eetaylor
Eetaylor
9 years ago

Bob, wrong yet again, you do not mention that the COPFS state on their website “…the total weight of persons, kit and weapons was well within its maximum load capacity..” therefore the boat was not overloaded – simply not enough seats for the numbers on board. The boat probably overturned due to poor weight distribution. There were faults yes – but overloading was not one of them.

The lessons learned WILL reduce the likelihood of a similar type of accident and better protect other Cadets.

Eetaylor
Eetaylor
9 years ago

Bob, please check spelling – unprofessional. The Coastguard were wrongly informed that all persons were accounted for. This was an abject failure.

A six figure grid reference is accurate to 100m and on a Loch they would not use nautical (sea-going charts) but OSM would be the norm.

The point is the delay in the “rescue team” reaching the scene was not a contributing factor as the Cadet was noticed as being mising 3 hours after the event – another abject failure.

Eetaylor
Eetaylor
9 years ago

Terry I fully agree with you; there was inadequate planning, no task-specific risk assessment (with very obvious hazards present) and poor supervision of the exercise.

The Cadet absolutely deserved better and all Cadets in the future will benefit from the lessons learnt after this awful case; but don’t assume this was the ‘norm’ because it is not! The MOD / Army put great effort in to organising challenging, fun events for Cadets and safety has a very high priority – this event is a rare case.

Eetaylor
Eetaylor
9 years ago

Bob, thanks for sharing your resume with us all; and your impressive record.

Earlier I asked you “Have you ever been in a real, life-threatening situation? Have you never panicked?” As an ex HSE Inspector; and in your second career; have you dealt with a boat overturning; or have you addressed an unexploded charge, or have you been called upon to fight major fires etc. After each there are lessons to be learnt. Lessons learnt that may save the lives of others.

By the way – it’s dismay

Eetaylor
Eetaylor
9 years ago

Bob, I have looked in to this further and I have to say you are correct. The boats were on open water (albeit close to shore) travelling from one Loch to another Loch and Nautical Charts were available. My presumption that they were crossing a Loch was incorrect. I am shocked that Army Cadets were carrying out this type of training.

This was an incident resulting from over-ambition of the Commander; I know now that SOP’s were bypassed and those that could advise better were not available.

Eetaylor
Eetaylor
9 years ago

To all; having read the full MAIB Report it is clear this was a shambolic exercise. There were gross failings at the local commander level and senior individuals have to be held accountable.

SOP’s were ignored at local level and this was very reckless. But to maintain that the MOD/Cadet Force as an organisation were reckless is wrong. Sometimes SOP’s need to be ignored; other times SOP’s MUST implemented, this was one such case. Poor decisions were made at the local level resulting in tragedy.

Eetaylor
Eetaylor
9 years ago

Embarrassed – then do the same as others, set out your concerns, share them with other members, this forum is intended to be a place for just that – and don’t criticise other members and then hide anonymously.

Proud CMIOSH

Garyroper
Garyroper
9 years ago

Bob,
Trains, Bus’s, Ferry’s etc all have a number of seats but take more passengers…Overcrowding?

Karen
Karen
9 years ago

A tragic loss and totally avoidable.

Kn
Kn
9 years ago

I do hope there is another side to this story, how can you forget a promise youve made to save someones life? Or a buddy system? And what were the 4 adults thinking? It only takes 1 person to say ‘No, there’s too many of us, lets rethink this’.

Mschilling
Mschilling
9 years ago

What a shamful sequence of events, that poor poor child was trapped and had been told she would be resuced by a person she would have respected, and trusted, as a leader and instructor – just imagine what she was going through in her last minutes.
Bob is right – the MoD can count the hairs on a dog’s backside but cannot operate a small boat properly. An apalling story.

Mschilling
Mschilling
9 years ago

There are some very concerning posts in this thread, and I find that far more unprofessional than any spelling mistakes…….

Paul
Paul
9 years ago

Andrew, I accept your point relating to the training, but I am a Scout Leader, and regardless of circumstances, head count on a regular basis is absolutely vital. Somebody should have taken responsibility for this task.

Pike
Pike
9 years ago

Ernie, I feel a bit sorry for the sargent, she’ll carry her own punishment for the rest of her life (deserved though) but the case proved inadequate planning, poor execution and no risk assessment, this is a kid we’re talking about and she deserved a higher level of protection. 3 hours for a head count isn’t acceptable, all it needed was the bloke in charge to write down the names and count up after the accident, difficult? the MOD should hang it’s head in shame!

Ray
Ray
9 years ago

Having just come to this debate I am also shocked that an Army led exercise turned out to be a complete shambles. The Sergeant has been villied by other so not going there other than to comment – is the person suitable to hold the post of a sergeant?

Tinaambler
Tinaambler
9 years ago

When I read this article I thought exactly the same as you. This demonstrates why we have the legislation and that guidance should be available for those who undertake these activities and learn from tragic events.