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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