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RETRO REPORT; Salvage tug skipper tells of captain's temper.

Byline: Tony Woolway

THE skipper of a Dutch tug said last night the "short-tempered" master of the coaster lost in the Cornish [Penlee] lifeboat disaster waited too long before seeking help.

But Capt Goop Buurman said that even if his tug, Noord Holland, had been on the scene earlier he doubted if he could have saved the stricken Union Star.

"Waves were breaking right over her from stem to stern. It would have been impossible for anyone on the Union Star to go on deck to make a line fast," he said.

Conditions, he added, were as bad as anything he had seen in 25 years at sea. A total of 16 people, including eight lifeboat men, died.

Capt Buurman, 52, said he first heard from the Falmouth Coast Guard that the Union Star needed help at about 6.20pm.

He immediately got in touch with the captain to offer a Lloyd's open salvage contract. "He didn't accept it. He was very short-tempered, maybe because of the conditions," he said.

Capt Buurman added that between 60-80 minutes later he was told that a contract had been agreed.

When he eventually arrived on the scene a helicopter was flying overhead and he kept back to give it time to manoeuvre.

The tug skipper said he played his searchlight on the area and suddenly the lights on the Union Star's deck disappeared.

"All the lights went out and I am certain that is when she hit the rocks.

Meanwhile, the owners of the doomed coaster responded last night to claims that 16 victims need not have died.

The owners of the doomed coaster, Union Transport, said they told the master to pick up a tow offered by the Dutch tug just 10 minutes after learning their vessel was in difficulties.

Edited by Tony Woolway
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Title Annotation:Letters
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Dec 22, 2011
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