Coronial inquest into why tugboat sank, killed captain

The tugboat Adonis, that sank killing its captain, is refloated.
The tugboat Adonis, that sank killing its captain, is refloated. Chrissy Harris

THE tugboat Adonis sank in Gladstone harbour and the question why is key to a coronial inquest being held into the death of Dudley Jacobs that started yesterday in Gladstone.

The captains of the two tugs involved in the tragedy have given conflicting evidence on speed or if one told the other to slow down.

Capt Jacobs, 64, a experienced skipper and Gladstone marine pilot, drowned in the capsize near the mouth of the Calliope River on June 11, 2011 when the Adonis and a second Sea Swift tugboat, Wolli, (contracted to Bechtel) had a water barge under tow.


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In evidence before the Coroner, David O'Connell, the issue of girding was raised where the under-tow barge began overtaking the Adonis causing the tow line to be pulled at 90 degrees just prior to Adonis being pulled over and sinking.

A safety hook mechanism to allow the tow line cable to be dropped if there was a problem had been in the locked position and not released.

Maritime Safety senior investigator Kevin Schinder said a Marine Execution Plan (MEP) was done that specifically outlined what each vessel was meant to be doing.

Anthony Phipps was the master of the tug Wolli at the time of the accident.
Anthony Phipps was the master of the tug Wolli at the time of the accident. Ross Irby

This was not adhered to and instead a line was put over the stern of the Adonis.

Mr Schinder said Capt Jacobs was there to observe Wolli captain Anthony 'Tony' Phipps but had been on Adonis at the time.

Adonis skipper Sean Beardon, said the tug had "quite a tendency" to lean over more than other boats because of its narrow beam.

He said the harbour master had required two tugs in case anything happened to one tug so as to avoid damaging the Clinton wharves.

Mr Beardon said they were travelling at six knots (speed over ground) and he called Mr Phipps three times on UHF radio telling him to slow down but he did not.

He said the Wolli had control of the speed they did.

Mr Beardon said as the barge (on a short tow of 41m) began to come alongside the Ad

Sean Beardon, who was aboard the ill-fated Adonis when it sank, leaves the Gladstone Courthouse after giving his witness summary at the inquest.
Sean Beardon, who was aboard the ill-fated Adonis when it sank, leaves the Gladstone Courthouse after giving his witness summary at the inquest. Ross Irby

onis he had no steering before colliding with the port side of the Wolli and capsizing.

He said Mr Jacobs had been on his ill-fated tug instead of the Wolli because he and Mr Phipps had not been getting on - "Tony was butting heads with Dudley".

Mr Phipps said speed was "not an issue", saying he had not received any calls to slow.

He said Adonis was on "a slack line" when he saw it keep going toward port. He said he had reduced his engine revs.

Topics:  coronial inquest inquest investigation tugboat

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