A French trawler that sank off the coast of Cornwall with the loss of five crew members sank after hanging onto the seabed, an investigation has revealed.
The fate of the Bugaled Breizh has been shrouded in mystery since she sank off the Lizard Peninsula in 2004 under relatively favorable conditions and without any apparent flaw in the vessel.
The bodies of skipper Yves Marie Gloaguen, 45, and Pascal Lucien Le Floch, 49, were found during the initial search and rescue operation and brought back to the UK.
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The body of a third man, Patrick Gloaguen, 35, was found during a rescue operation to reassemble the Bugaled Breizh but was taken to France, and his death has not been reported. investigation.
The bodies of the two other crew members, Georges Lemetayer, 60, and Eric Guillamet, 42, have never been found.
It has long been suggested that a submarine may have become entangled in the trawl gear of the Bugaled Breizh, causing it to capsize.
But in 2016, the highest French judicial court confirmed the closure of its investigation after finding no evidence to support the theory.
But the investigation found that the relatively light damage sustained by the vessel’s trawling was incompatible with entanglement with a powerful military submarine.
Judge Nigel Lickley QC, who acted as coroner for the London High Court inquest, said it was “totally fanciful” that an unknown submarine caused the sinking.
âThe Bugaled Breizh was gone in a few minutes, leaving very little room. I can understand how thoughts can develop afterwards, âsaid Justice Lickley.
“I have no doubt that the fact that a submarine was seen at the scene – doing nothing other than aiding the search – gave rise to speculation as to the involvement of a submarine in the shipwreck. “
He said Dutch, German and British submarines were operating in the English Channel, but were “several kilometers away” at the time of the sinking.
“For the avoidance of doubt, I am satisfied that no other identified Allied submarines of any type or class were in the area at the time – and that includes US submarines,” did he declare.
“As long as the idea still persists today, I dismiss it as totally fanciful and unfounded.”
He added: âI am convinced that no non-Allied submarine was near or near the Bugaled Breizh when it sank. “
Judge Lickley also ruled out a collision with another vessel, a hard hitch or mechanical failure.
“I am convinced that the cause of the sinking was a slight hitch in the rigging of the trawl on the seabed, which, combined with other factors, caused the Bugaled Breizh to heal on the port side, water intake, displacement to starboard causing the crew quarters to flood and she sank quickly, âhe said.
He gave the cause of death of Mr. Le Floch and Mr. Gloaguen as drowning and recorded accident findings.
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The investigation learned that marine investigators examined evidence gathered by the French marine accident investigation body and discovered that one of the vessel’s trawl doors – two sheets of metal used to hold the mouth open net – had buried itself in sediment and mud near a depression in the seabed.
It was likely that the weight on the port trawl door had exerted tremendous pressure on one of the cables, called warps, connecting the net to the boat.
The pressure may have caused the vessel to tilt sharply, allowing a large volume of water to be carried onto the main deck.
Allegations that a submarine caused the sinking had been investigated by the Royal Navy, the court said.
Andrew Billings, who led the investigation, said he had found no evidence that a submarine of any flag was within five nautical miles of the trawler.
A senior naval officer told the inquest that it would be “unthinkable” for a British or allied submarine crew to tamper with records of a ship’s location.
Commander Daniel Simmonds, who is currently in charge of the day-to-day operations of all British submarines, said such a move “would absolutely erode trust at the highest level between Allied partners”.
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