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Fatal Accident Inquiry into the Death of Alexander John Moar, Sheriff Valerie Johnston, Kirkwall Sheriff Court, June 2011


In terms of s.6(1)(a) of the Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths Inquiry (Scotland) Act 1976, the sheriff found that Alexander John Moar (DOB 26.11.83) died in Hoy Sound on 16th June 2007 between 12.30 am and 12.45 am. In terms of s.6(1)(b), the cause of death was drowning by sudden immersion in cold water. Formal determinations were made under s.6(1)(c) and (e).

Late at night on the 15th June 2007 Alex Moar, an experienced sailor, embarked on a journey from Orkney mainland to the island of Hoy after mentioning to friends that he might attend a party on the island. He had been drinking with friends during the afternoon and evening but set off on his 17 ft Dory alone. He did not have a lifejacket, survival suit, spare engine or VHF radio on board. At around 12.30 am the Dory's anchor rope mechanism suddenly failed and the boat capsized. Alex sent up a red distress flare which was spotted by an islander who made a 999 call. As the source of the flare could not be identified, the coastguard began investigating the source. After a land source was ruled out, the lifeboat was launched around 30 minutes after the flare sighting. The capsized Dory was discovered around one nautical mile from the lifeboat centre. The subsequent search for Alex was unsuccessful and his body was eventually discovered on the shoreline of Calf of Flotta on the 18th July 2007.

The sheriff found that, under s.6(1)(c), the deceased could have taken reasonable precautions to avoid his death such as: notifying the Coastguard of his voyage; wearing a lifejacket and survival suit; carrying a VHF radio; carrying adequate fuel; and installing an independent secondary engine.
Under s.6(1)(e) a number of facts were relevant to the circumstances of the death. In addition to the facts noted above, these were: that the Coastguard Acting Watch Manager responded in accordance with prescribed procedures and protocols; that by 12.40 am Coastguards on call had been instructed to make visual checks from the shoreline; that at the date of the incident the water temperature was between 10 and 11 degrees Celsius; and that there was an ebb tide running westerly at between 5 and 6 knots.