Mystery continues to surround the tragic final moments of two firm friends and experienced anglers who drowned during a fishing trip off the coast of the Isle of Man.
Coroner of Inquests John Needham recorded a verdict of accidental death for Harold Faragher of Bride and Stewart Curphey of Andreas, both aged 66, after a two-day hearing in Douglas this week.
‘On the balance of probability each man’s death was the result of an accident at sea, of which regrettably the precise cause is not known’, said Mr Needham.
The pair, described as experienced amateur fishermen, launched their 14-foot fibreglass motorboat off the beach at Blue Point around lunchtime on Friday, July 26.
The alarm was raised in the early hours of Saturday, July 27, when the pair had failed to return home, triggering a full air and sea search coordinated by Liverpool Coastguard.
The boat was found upside down 7.5 miles north west of Jurby at 6.20am by the crew of Peel lifeboat.
The bodies of the two men were separately recovered by Ramsey lifeboat and a search and rescue helicopter during Saturday afternoon.
Post-mortem examinations concluded that both men had drowned.
Mr Needham compiled a timeline from eyewitness accounts and records of outgoing calls from their mobile phones, but acknowledged that there were ‘crucial gaps in our knowledge’ and was unable to determine how the pair came to be in the water or how the motorboat had overturned.
‘The exact facts as to why the boat became upturned in the water is still a mystery, but is not something that can be disputed, and unfortunately Harold and Stewart succumbed to saltwater drowning.’
Despite the fine weather on the day, the inquest heard that the sea state in the area was ‘surprisingly rough’ on Friday afternoon. But citing the evidence of Mr Faragher’s son Michael, who had frequently used the boat in rough conditions, Mr Needham said: ‘It is unlikely that it was simply the sea conditions that caused the boat to founder.’
The inquest heard that the boat was intact, showed no visible signs of damage and had not run out of fuel. The men were not intoxicated and Mr Needham determined that no health issues played a part in the incident.
He added that there was no evidence of any third party being involved.
‘My finding is that the boat foundered or capsized quite suddenly. I don’t know why that was, but I find it’s more likely than not that both men entered the water at the same time.’
‘There are many scenarios that could have occurred, but it would be wrong for me to speculate without evidence to support it.’
It was established that the pair were not wearing lifejackets, but were wearing flotation suits which could assist with buoyancy. However, Mr Needham concluded that they ‘have their limitations’, and could not help keep the wearer’s head above the water once exhaustion had set in.
‘The events of that Friday and Saturday indicate how dangerous the sea can be even for the most experienced. Things can go very wrong very quickly.
‘This case highlights the need for people to wear proper lifejackets when going out to sea in small boats.’
He added that mariners must give definite return times to someone onshore, so that the alarm can be raised quickly if they are overdue.
‘In this case there is no guarantee that these measures would have changed anything, but they might have done, so I must impress on all seafarers the importance of this safety message.’
Mr Needham added ‘they were very popular, loving family men. They were true and proud Manxmen and they are greatly missed.’