Denmark Extradites Scot Carrier's Helmsman on Charges of Manslaughter
The British second officer aboard the Scot Carrier who was the helmsman when the vessel collided with the Danish barge Karin Høj in December has been extradited to Denmark to stand trial. The 30-year-old seaman is facing charges of negligent manslaughter and gross negligence leading to the death of the two Danish seamen who were operating the barge.
The Scot Carrier, a 3,450 gross ton general cargo carrier, was sailing in a busy sea lane south of the Swedish town of Ystad and north of the Danish Island of Bornholm when it collided with the smaller Danish vessel, a 180-foot self-sailing barge Karin Høj. The Danish vessel capsized and divers later found the body of one of her crew members trapped inside the vessel while the second person remains missing.
Swedish authorities immediately said they suspected drunkenness as a contributing factor to the collision. They tested the crew of the Scot Carrier and detained both the chief officer and second officer reporting that both had exceeded the legal limits for blood alcohol. The chief officer was later released but the second officer remained in custody in Sweden facing charges for aggravated drunken driving, aggravated negligence in maritime traffic, and aggravated causing another person's death.
At the same time that the Swedish authorities were considering proceeding with a trial, the Copenhagen City Court also held a hearing in absentia, finding that there were sufficient grounds to bring the officer up on charges. Danish police and prosecutors demanded that the officer be extradited to Denmark.
Additional details related to the circumstances related to the case emerged from the court papers. Danish media is reporting that the helmsman had a blood alcohol level of not less than 0.457 although he denies that he was drunk. Reportedly he admitted to drinking five beers before 6:00 pm that evening, although he did not go on duty till 11:00 pm. He said that he did not see the small Danish vessel on radar until about 20 seconds before the collision and it was too late to avoid the making contact. The collision took place after 3:00 am.
Investigators told the court that the ships were running parallel in the shipping lane when the Scot Carrier made a sudden turn to starboard. Divers investigating the damaged vessel said the Scot Carrier struct the Karin Høj causing it to capsize.
Lawyers for the second officer had been fighting his extradition on the grounds that it was a violation of the European Convention, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and other international law. The lower Swedish courts ruled not to proceed with the case clearing the way for the extradition and last week Sweden’s Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal clearing the way for the British citizen to be transferred to custody in Denmark.
After a hearing in Copenhagen on February 7, he was remanded into custody awaiting trial in Denmark.