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22nd November 2021, 19:52

Inquest into death of two men following collision with RGP vessel enters second week

A former coxswain of the RGP gave evidence in Supreme Court on Monday as an inquest into the death at sea of two Spanish men entered its second week.

Ian Phillips was with the RGP for ten years and in the Marine Section for six and a half until his departure in 2018.

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When asked about his time in the Marine section, Mr Phillips said ultimately, instructions were ‘to stop them coming in’, in reference to suspect RHIBs. He said there was no oversight from commanding officers with regards to operations and that ‘if you provided results, that’s all they were interested in’.

When asked if high speed pursuits had been allowed, he replied, ‘that was the job’. However, he said there was no specific training for high speed pursuits, with recruits effectively learning on the job.

Throughout the inquest, the question of the RGP vessel’s navigation equipment has been discussed at length with the coxswain on the night of the collision saying he had switched off the chartplotter to avoid it affecting his night vision. His second in command that night said he had not questioned this decision.

Mr Phillips described himself as ‘over the top’ with preparation regarding onboard navigation devices, describing the sea as a hostile environment and saying it would be unwise to remove any of them.

The chartplotter was described as having two functions to dim its display in order to avoid affecting a coxswain's vision.

Mr Phillips was also asked about the log defender on the stem of the RGP vessel and whether he considered it a weapon. He replied that anything can be used as a weapon with sufficient imagination, especially at 60 knots.

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DC David O’Flaherty of the RGP also gave evidence, he was called to the pontoon as the Customs vessel bringing the Spanish men arrived

He told the court that upon arrival, one of the men onboard told him this incident had happened off Alcaidesa, and that he had asked the RGP vessel to put its lights on and get his uncle to the hospital. He reported the man said the RGP vessel did not put its lights on and towed them at 5 knots.

They took 50 minutes to return, by which time the man’s uncle had died.

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Three Customs officers who were aboard the vessel which responded to the RGP’s call also gave evidence

One officer said one of the RHIB’s crew had said ‘this has been an accident, nobody wanted them to be killed’. When asked if the man had also said that they were rammed by the RGP, the Customs Officer said he did not recall.

A second Customs officer said at no time did the member of the RHIB's crew say it was an accident or nobody's fault, but neither did he recall anyone saying that the RGP had intentionally rammed the RHIB.