NT trawler death referred to prosecutors

An inquest has found that the unsafe and dangerous work environment on a trawler led to the electrocution of a 20-year-old man.

A commercial fishing company and government regulators have been savaged over abysmal health and safety failures that led to the electrocution of a man on a prawn trawler.

Ryan Donoghue, 20, was hit by a wave while using an angle grinder, not protected by a safety switch, on a trawler fishing in the Gulf of Carpentaria, in November 2013.

In his inquest findings, Northern Territory coroner Greg Cavanagh referred the death to prosecutors and police, saying offences may have been committed.

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The workplace on board the Austral Fisheries-owned Newfish1 vessel was unsafe and dangerous and resulted in Mr Donoghue's death, the Judge Cavanagh said on Friday.

It also highlighted the "shameful" state of safety on a large number of fishing vessels.

"The death of Ryan Donoghue was needless and a tragic waste of a young life," the judge said.

"It would have been prevented if there was even a modicum of compliance with the law. There was not."

He said the fact that no territory, state or commonwealth regulator took action against Austral Fisheries over Mr Donoghue's death "beggars belief and is shameful".

The findings also detailed the death of another man in almost identical circumstances off the Western Australian coast in 2000, including recommendations relating to the use of power tools near water which had been ignored.

"That of itself is scandalous," Judge Cavanagh said.

"Ryan would be alive today had those recommendations been followed, even in part."

Mr Donoghue was wearing shorts, a singlet and had no shoes when he was electrocuted.

Austral Fisheries' policies required workers on deck to wear protective clothing including boots, gloves and helmets.

Judge Cavanagh said Austral Fisheries had improved safety significantly since the death - introducing safety switches, and having first aid equipment such as defibrillators on board its boats.

But he warned that more fishing vessel workers would die unless there was a crackdown on lax health and safety practices and called for inspections of commercial vessels.

"I have no doubt that unless that is done, there will be more needless and preventable deaths of young men and women," he said.

"[Workers] should not pay with their lives for failures of others to abide the law."

Northern Territory police were contacted for comment.


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3 min read
Published 3 June 2016 at 4:22pm
Source: AAP