Petrel ship dry dock incident: Dramatic account from injured worker as law firm launches enquiries

One of the 35 people injured when a ship tipped over in a Leith dry dock has given The Scotsman a dramatic first account of the incident as a law firm launched enquiries for potential civil legal actions.

Constantin Pogor, who is still being treated for his injuries following the incident last month, said he had found himself "flying from one side of the bridge to the other" before being knocked unconscious when he hit a metal beam.

The 48-year-old Romanian painter is among several of those hurt whom law firm Digby Brown is acting for, one of whom is understood to have very serious, life-changing injuries.

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The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is conducting an investigation into the incident in which the US Navy-owned research vessel Petrel became dislodged in Imperial Dock in the Port of Leith and tilted by some 45 degrees on March 22.

Petrel in Imperial Dock in Leith the day after the incident. Picture: Peter Summers/Getty ImagesPetrel in Imperial Dock in Leith the day after the incident. Picture: Peter Summers/Getty Images
Petrel in Imperial Dock in Leith the day after the incident. Picture: Peter Summers/Getty Images

A maritime industry source has told The Scotsman it may have been caused by a problem with the blocks holding its hull in place.

Mr Pogor, who was painting the 250ft-long ship’s command tower, suffered a dislocated elbow and fractured pelvis. Injuries suffered by those hurt are also understood to have included broken bones such as legs and hips, and lacerations to arms.

Speaking for the first time about his ordeal, Mr Pogor told The Scotsman: “I heard a loud noise, felt movement and I just had this reflex reaction to try and hold onto something, but I didn’t get to grab onto anything. I flew from one side of the bridge to the other and landed on my right side and hit my ribs on a metal beam.

“I must have passed out because I remember just sort of coming to – that’s when I realised my elbow was dislodged. A colleague then tried to move me – it was really painful and that’s when I realised that although I could move my legs, something was wrong in my hip.

The Petrel in Imperial Dock on March 22. Picture: Andrew O'BrienThe Petrel in Imperial Dock on March 22. Picture: Andrew O'Brien
The Petrel in Imperial Dock on March 22. Picture: Andrew O'Brien

“I still don’t know what actually happened that day to cause the ship to fall.”

Mr Pogor said he had sought lawyers “to investigate independently on my behalf”. He said: “I think there’s a lot of other people onboard who’ve done the same. I want to shed light on what happened to me just so people back home know I’m relatively OK.

“It was scary at the time, especially when you’re not able to speak the same language. But I’m being looked after now, have a translator and I’m focused on my recovery.”

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Mr Pogor is one of 23 people among the 35 injured who were taken to hospitals in Edinburgh and Fife after the incident. Health authorities have said only that “several” were seriously hurt.

Digby Brown is understood to be investigating on behalf of injured workers, with a potential view to raising civil legal actions.

A spokesman for the firm said: “We can confirm we assisting a number of injured people affected by the Leith docks incident. Our enquiries are at an early stage, so we cannot comment further on the specifics. However, we will continue to support and advise all affected people.”

A spokesperson for Dales Marine Services, which runs the dry dock, said there were “no new updates or comments at this time”. Texas-based engineering firm Oceaneering, which operates the vessel for the US Navy, has confirmed its staff were among those on board when the incident happened.

An Oceaneering spokesperson has said: “The safety of our employees and the communities in which we operate is our utmost priority. Company personnel were aboard at the time of the incident.

"Immediately upon learning of this incident, and consistent with our stringent safety policies and incident protocols, we initiated an internal investigation and are working closely with the appropriate authorities for a full investigation of the matter.”

The US Navy said the vessel was a “multi-purpose maritime operations ship” that was “capable of supporting oceanographic surveys”. Its spokesperson has said: "The Navy procured Petrel in September 2022 to support our efforts in maritime domain awareness. We are working closely with the on-site authorities, who are in the best position to help those in need and to provide status updates.

“We will continue to communicate with our contacts at the scene in order to understand what occurred, the actions being taken, and the long-term impacts. Our thoughts and prayers are with those injured and their families, with hopes for a quick and full recovery."

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The vessel, was previously bought and outfitted by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen before being sold by his estate. It had been moored in Leith since September 2020 due to “operational challenges” from the pandemic, according to a statement on the vessel’s social media page.

Mr Allen bought the ship to locate historically significant shipwrecks and it discovered around 30 sunken warships, including the Japanese Imperial Navy’s IJN Musashi.

A HSE spokesperson said: “A HSE team is continuing to work with Police Scotland on the ongoing investigation of this incident.” A Police Scotland spokesperson added: “Officers are working with the Health and Safety Executive. Enquiries are ongoing to establish the full circumstances.”



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