MYSTERY STILL SURROUNDS an incident off Down yesterday where a trawler was seemingly dragged backwards by a submarine.
The crew of the Karen narrowly avoided disaster as the boat could have been pulled underwater as the submarine caught on its fishing nets.
The vessel is believed to be heavily damaged following the incident, which took place yesterday at around 4pm.
At the height of the Cold War it was a relatively common occurrence, prompting the Royal Navy to put protocols in place for submarines to avoid collisions. If a submarine is involved in a collision, they are meant to surface and ensure the ship and crew are safe.
This near-miss coincided with the launch of a massive Nato exercise in Scotland.
Speaking to Down News, skipper Paul Murphy said the Karen was pulled back at ten knots, its top speed, and he was almost knocked off his feet.
“The crew were just in shock after this incident. It really was a close call,” he said, “The incident only lasted about just over five seconds but it was very scary.”
The submarine did not come up to the surface after we tangled with it. We have now lost thousands of pounds of fishing gear because of this. It really should not have happened.
“It was fortunate that one of the steel ropes holding the net snapped or we would have been pulled under very quickly.”
Murphy spoke later to The Anton Savage Show on Today FM and said the incident caught all crew by surprise:
“It was totally out of the blue. It was a beautiful day, flat calm, and just all of a sudden, that was it.”
He said one rope broke free, the boat was left spinning in circles, something extremely unusual for an 80 ft vessel.
“We’re lucky that we were on a fairly big, robust boat. Anything smaller would have been pulled straight under. We had very little time to react.”
“I actually had to sit down for ten minutes afterwards. My hands were shaking so much I couldn’t lift the radio to call the coastguard,” Murphy told the programme.
Dick James from the Northern Ireland Fish Producers Organisation told TheJournal.ie that naval officials have yet to confirm if any submarines were in the area.
He said a similar incident took place last month with another vessel.
“My concern is that protocols aren’t being followed,” James said, “because the Cold War is hotting up, and it might have been a Russian submarine.”
This was echoed by Murphy, who noted that it didn’t adhere by the usual procedure of surfacing after the crash.
James added that it’s hard to see how anything other than a submarine could have caused yesterday’s incident, due to speed involved, noting that the ship’s sudden jolt is visible on tracking systems.
A spokesperson for the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence told this website that it does not comment on submarine activity.
Originally published 10.02am