Trio died when boat off Shoreham was almost ‘run over’

The wreck of James 2 being recovered

Three men out fishing for fun died when their boat was almost “run over” by a vessel whose skipper who was not paying enough attention, a court has heard.

Mircea “Mitch” Ilie, 40, Irinel Popovici, 41, and Treaiam Dumitrache, 50, drowned when seawater gushed into their boat.

The incident happened just off the coast of Shoreham, West Sussex, on 6 August 2017.

David Marr, 53, of Peterhead, denies failing to maintain a proper lookout.

Sole survivor Elvis Cojocariu was later found alive by a fisherman, suffering from hypothermia.

Lewes Crown Court heard Mr Marr was “entirely distracted” and only found out about the deadly near-miss his scallop dredger had been involved in from the radio, hours later.

Prosecutor David Richards said Mr Marr was “entirely unaware” of the James 2 – a 16ft (5m) angling boat, that had been bought by father-of-three Mr Ilea.

Mircea Ilie (left) and Irinel Popovici
Image captionMircea Ilie (left) and Irinel Popovici were among four fisherman on board the boat

The court heard the men sailed from Shoreham Harbour, where the vessel was moored, to an area where the sea was about 131ft (40m) deep.

Mr Ilie cut the engine and they began fishing and drinking a little whiskey.

Mr Richards said the boat had lacked some of the necessary lighting, but “that did not explain” why Mr Marr “appeared not to have had the slightest awareness” of the boat.

There were life jackets on board but the four men were not wearing them, the court was told.

The men spotted Mr Marr’s vessel – the Vertrouwen – about half a mile (1km) away but did not initially think there was any need to worry.

Traiam Dumitrache
Image captionTraiam Dumitrache jumped into the sea clutching an empty petrol barrel, the court heard

Mr Cojocariu, giving evidence from behind a screen, said: “We all panicked, all three of us. We told Mitch that the ship was running us over.”

Mr Ilie made a hard right but it was too late and water started to enter the boat.

“The boat went down in an angle and we just said to jump into the water,” Mr Cojocariu added.

Search off Shoreham
Image captionLifeboat crews and coastguard carried out searches along the West Sussex coast

During cross examination, defence barrister Oliver Powell said: “I want to suggest to you that the reality is that you were drinking on and off all day.”

Mr Cojocariu told the court he was about a seven on a scale of one to 10 in terms of the effect the alcohol was having on him when he was on the boat.

He said when they first spotted the Vertrouwen Mr Ilie was in the cabin.

Mr Powell said: “Do you think you should have contacted him sooner once you saw the vessel coming towards you?”

Mr Cojocariu said: “We did not think that it would run us over.

“When we saw it approaching us that is when we thought it was a danger,” adding that there was “no time” to contact the Vertrouwen by radio.