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'Hazards' where Swansea trawlerman fell to death at Ilfracombe Harbour

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: October 10, 2012

Jamie Barbeary with his fiancee Jo Lucas

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THERE were numerous "tripping hazards" at a harbour in which a Swansea trawlerman fell to his death, an inquest heard.

Father of two Jamie Barbeary died three years ago at Ilfracombe Harbour in north Devon, hours after his vessel was due to leave for a fishing expedition in the Bristol Channel.

The skipper of Inkerman Street, St Thomas, 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 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." 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.

There was a disturbance in the court as coroner Dr Elizabeth Earland was summing up the evidence yesterday, with a member of Mr Barbeary's family shouting at the coroner after she referred again to the alcohol content in the victim's blood.

He left the court soon after and did not return.

Dr Earland instructed the jury of five men and four women to consider two verdicts — accidental death and an open verdict.

Mr Barbeary, who lived on the Olivia Belle but often stayed with his two children and partner Joanna Lucas in Swansea, suffered severe head injuries and was said to have died only after he fell into the water.

The hearing was set to continue today.

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