‘They [RNLI] didn’t bring the boys home, but they brought us hope when we needed it’ said Nathania Minard, mum of lost fisherman, Alan Minard, who was sadly lost alongside his crew mates Carl McGrath and Ross Ballantine in Nicola Faith tragedy.
One year ago today, the Nicola Faith fishing vessel went missing off the coast of Conwy with three crew members on board. The bodies of crew Carl (34), Ross (39) and Alan (20) were found, several weeks after their vessel went missing on 27 January 2021.
Today, the families of the three fishermen who sadly lost their lives have shared their heartbreaking stories in video interviews and pledged to work with the RNLI to improve commercial fishing safety and prevent other families suffering.
The families of all three men have since raised thousands of pounds, including a JustGiving page that raised £11,500, for the RNLI after lifeboats spent more than 90 hours at sea searching for the men.
Additionally, a GoFundMe page raised thousands to help fund a private search thanks to the kindness of the local community. The families have now announced some of the remaining funds will support the RNLI in its bid to save more lives.
The families are currently exploring a variety of options and working with the RNLI to determine how the funds will be best spent to provide a lasting legacy to their loved ones.
The RNLI invited the families to the Fleetwood Offshore Survival Centre to witness an event the charity is carrying out with the Fishing Industry Safety Group (FISG).They attended classroom sessions and watched from the side-lines, as fishermen were put into a survival pool with and without lifejackets to experience first-hand the benefit of wearing one.
Man overboard recovery training also took place. The course delivery is led by the RNLI. Seafish are the administrators of the fund put together by the MCA and Trinity House.
As part of the course, which was attended by fishermen from across North Wales, the families spoke with delegates about the impact of their loss in the hope they would see the importance of wearing the correct kit and having a plan in an emergency situation.
Ross Ballantine’s sister Lowri Taylor said: ‘One year on, we’re wanting to create a lasting legacy to the boys and use our experience to share our story and hopefully save more lives. It’s too early to say what measures may have prevented this dreadful incident, but anything that improves safety and gives fishermen a better chance has got to be a good thing.
‘We don’t want any other families to suffer in the way we have all done and feel by supporting the RNLI and speaking about our experience, we can make a difference.
‘It was so very emotional for us to be there and see the fishermen who worked alongside our loved ones. However, we are grateful for the experience of meeting face to face with them and helping them to understand the impact of what is left behind. We are thrilled that the RNLI is using our interviews on future courses and hope our story helps change attitudes to safety.’
Frankie Horne, RNLI Fishing Safety Manager says: ‘The family has shown such compassion and strength in wanting to use their tragic experience to prevent more lives being lost. The RNLI and its partners have been running these awareness events for a number of years.
‘We are so grateful to the family for helping us to provide a real-life element of the course, which I firmly believe will be the most powerful tool in changing attitudes and behaviour. We are looking forward to continuing our relationship with the families and helping educate on the various projects running to improve commercial fishing safety.’
The RNLI with its partners is currently running in-water man-overboard recovery and Lifejacket training sessions in Fleetwood, Aberdeen, South Shields, Lowestoft, Cork, and at the RNLI’s purpose-built college in Poole.
Further free Man Overboard Awareness events are taking place at Fleetwood Nautical Campus on 11 and 12 March. Fishermen from across Wales are encouraged to attend by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.