Missing dinghy with loss of 4 lives

Location: Near Dalmally, Loch Awe, Scotland.

Completed PE Summary: Loch Awe Dinghy

A short summary of the accident and action taken:

Recreational Craft/Accident Details
Vessel Name Unnamed
Registered Owner Privately owned
Type Open boat
Construction Unknown
Length Overall Estimated to be between 2.7 to 3.7m
Date/Time 21/03/2009, approximately 0340 (UTC)
Location of incident Near Dalmally, Loch Awe
Incident Type Vessel lost/Accident to person
Persons Onboard 4
Injuries/Fatalities 4 fatalities
Damage/Pollution Unknown – vessel not found


A group of friends were on a camping and angling trip near Dalmally on Loch Awe. They had set up camp and decided to use their small boat to visit a pub on the opposite shore. After spending some time in the pub, they attempted to use the boat to return to their campsite. Thick fog had developed and at 0300, a member of the party who had stayed at the campsite woke and heard calls for help from the Loch. He attempted to guide his friends back to the shore by lighting fires and using lights from their vehicles, which were parked nearby. This was not successful and he called the Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) for assistance.

The FRS alerted other emergency services and Police, FRS, Ambulance and Coastguard Rescue Teams attended. A Search and Rescue Helicopter was scrambled, but thick fog prevented it from getting close to the Loch. An FRS water rescue unit was called for and, on arrival at the Loch, searched for and recovered two casualties from the water. Despite the efforts of medical teams, they could not be revived. The two other men and the boat could not be found.

There is not enough information to be certain what caused this accident. It is likely that the boat was relatively small and that it was overloaded by carrying four passengers, an outboard engine and a fuel tank. Navigating the boat back across the loch would have been extremely difficult in the thick fog.

Action taken

MAIB has investigated many accidents where alcohol has been a contributory factor, and this case emphasises the increased risks of attempting to operate a boat under the influence of alcohol. It is unlikely that any new lessons can be learned from this accident.

Published: April 2009

Published 23 January 2015