Fishermen and their families are aware of the dangers in the industry. Yet when tragedy strikes it always seems so unexpected. They somehow think accidents will happen to others - it won't happen to them. So its always a surprise when loved ones are taken. Such were the feelings of the Rowley family when young Shaun Rowley was lost at sea in the Heritage. He was only 21 and who could have expected such a fate. He was happy to have a job and loved working as a fisherman. Wise old fishermen tell us that the sea always gives up its dead. Yet its not true - young lives are extinguished and swallowed up yet the families are not even allowed the funeral which would allow them to move on.
The Heritage went out with the Katie Jane skippered by Paul Langley of Bridlington. He owned both boats and they were trawling by night around twelve miles off Scarborough. It was a calm sea and everything seemed OK. The Heritage had snagged its nets on the seabed. It had probably got entangled in some wreck. They had decided to wait for the tides to turn. Langley was astonished when he returned an hour later to find that the Heritage was not there. He radioed for help calling the Coastguard.
An Air and sea rescue swung into action. The Filey and Scarborough Lifeboats set off to search the area. A helicopter was brought in from RAF Leconfield which was later relieved by a helicopter from RAF Boulmer. Four Dutch minesweepers took part in the search. The local fishermen were all involved.
Some wreckage was found - oilskins and fish boxes. Local skippers were eager to help - Bob Walker described the situation as 'bad' - they had found wreckage but no bodies. Shaun Rowley came from a fishing family with a long heritage and indeed Tommy Rowley, was involved in the search, as skipper of the Our Margaret. In total 9 trawlers were involved in the intensive search around where the wreckage was found.
The Filey and Scarborough Lifeboats both set off again the next day. But the optomisim was now turing to gloom. Stuart Ogden, Coxswain of the Scarborough Lifeboat, set off with the belief that they could be found. It was a sad loss - they didn't even know a Scarborough lad was involved. They believed it to be a Bridlington boat.
The Rowley family were devasted, brother Patrick Deane, returned from Majorca - he was staying there due to his career as a professional singer.
At the end of the day the story disapears from the newspapers. The families continue to grieve. People soon forget - all except the grieving mother and family. They think of what could have been - a young man with a great sense of humour and so hard working. He had his whole life in front of him. It was a tragic loss.
The Rowley family in particular were not prepared for things to just slide away. Ellen Rowley, the devasted mother, wanted her sons body back so a funeral could take place and they could start picking up the pieces of their lives. They were annoyed at the delays to the search of the wreck. The boat had already been dragged into shallower waters.
The marine investigators made clear that the search of the wreck was to determine the cause of the accident not necessarily to recover bodies. The family then set up a fund to help search for the bodies. Donations could be made thgrough Barclays Bank and the Scarborough Evening News offices. Any money left over would be divided between the RNLI, RAF Search and Rescue and the wife of Tony Mapplebeck and her three children James, Michael and Debbie.
Meanwhile, the search of the wreck took place. The marine divers were taken to the scene by the Coxswain of the Lifeboat,Stuart Ogden, in his fishing boat Valhalla. Then Tommy Rowley helped tow the vessel back into port in his trawler Our Margaret. The families of both Tommy Mapplebeck and Shaun Rowley both waited anxiously in Scarborough Harbour. There was only one body recovered - that of Tony Mapplebeck. There was an open window in the wheelhouse which probably took Shaun Rowley's body. This was a big blow to the family.
Then finally the inquest took place. Marine investigators stated that the boat may even have gone down if more stringent regulations had been applied. It was probably the prevailing tide and winds which caused the accident. There had been some talk that trawler owners were buying smaller boats because they could bypass regulations for bigger vessels over 12 metres. The Department of Transport even commented after the inquest - they stated that they would be carrying out more random checks of smaller vessels and would be issuing advice about safety. So in small way the pressure from the Rowley family and the press campaign had made a difference.
The crew of the Heritage were:
- Tony Mapplebeck, skipper, Bridlington.
- Shaun Rowley, 21, of Barrowcliff Road, Scarborough.
- Scarborough Evening News. 25th march, 1993
- Scarborough Evening News. 26th march, 1993
- Scarborough Evening News. 27th march, 1993
- Scarborough Evening News. 24th July, 1993
- Scarborough Evening News. 24th January, 1994