Transport Malta investigation: Heavy weather likely contributed to fatal fall from stairway onboard

by 27, Nov, 2020Innovation

The incident

On 22 November 2019, Alma was experiencing heavy weather conditions, while in the Atlantic Ocean on a voyage from Rouen, France, to Cuba.

In the evening of the same day, while the bosun was on deck ‘A’ of the accommodation, he heard something falling, coming from the vicinity of the accommodation stairway.

On looking down the stairway, the bosun found the electrical engineer lying on his back near the bottom of the stairway on the poop deck. The electrical engineer seemed unconscious and the bridge and the master were eventually informed.

The vessel was diverted back towards Brest, France. In the early hours of the next day, the condition of the electrical engineer deteriorated and efforts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful.

Probable cause of the fall

Reportedly, the crew member was walking down the stairway from his cabin on deck ‘A’ to the poop deck, when the bosun heard him falling down the stairway.

In the absence of any witnesses, the safety investigation could not identify the reason why the fatally injured crew member was heading towards, the poop deck. However, it was possible that he had intended to go down to either the mess room or the recreation room.


  1. It is highly likely that the fatal injuries were suffered during a fall down the stairway, while the electrical engineer was descending it;
  2. The safety investigation hypothesized that the crew member either lost his stepping or balance due the rolling and pitching motions of the vessel, and subsequently toppled down the stairway;
  3. The crew member may have not been holding onto the handrail, while descending the stairway;
  4. The death of the electrical engineer was caused by a severe head trauma;
  5. Positional asphyxia may have contributed to the fatally injured crew member’s death;
  6. Fatigue, the consumption of drugs / alcohol, the design and condition of the stairway, and footwear worn by the fatally injured crew member were not considered as contributory to this accident.

Actions taken

Following the accident, the company circulated the internal investigation report on this occurrence among its fleet of vessels. The internal investigation was carried out in terms of the requirements of the ISM Code. The investigation report emphasised the importance of serving crew members to exercise caution while using the vessel’s stairs, especially when the vessel is experiencing rolling and pitching motions, and to hold onto the handrails for support.

Explore more herebelow:

MV Alma report

November 2020