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Saturday, 25 October 2014

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Ex-submariners welcome random breath tests call after Barow sub death

FORMER submariners from Barrow have welcomed calls for random breath tests for sailors in the wake of an inquest into a murder onboard HMS Astute.

Lieutenant Commander Ian Molyneux, from Wigan, was murdered by Able Seaman Ryan Donovan, who was over the drink drive limit and on guard duty on Barrow-built HMS Astute in April 2011.

The inquest heard Donovan had drunk 20 pints of cider and lager, cocktails and double vodkas in the 48 hours before he was put on guard duty with the SA80 rifle he used to kill his colleague. Donovan, 23, was jailed for life with a minimum term of 25 years after pleading guilty to murder.

The Royal Navy has since tightened its rules on alcohol consumption before duty. At the time of Lt Cdr Molyneux’s death, sailors were allowed 10 units in the previous 24 hours with no alcohol in the 10 hours before duty, which has now been changed to five units.

Lt Cdr Molyneux’s widow, Gillian Molyneux, backed the coroner’s recommendation for random breath testing for sailors. Retired submariners in Barrow have been having their say on the issue.

Lance Jobson, one of the bosses at Barrow-based Optech Fibres, was in the Royal Navy for 13 years, and served on three Barrow-built submarines; HMS Victorious, HMS Triumph and HMS Superb. He said during his time in the navy, sailors were allowed three cans of beer a day but an “unwritten rule” applied where no one would drink when the submarine was at sea. Mr Jobson, 41, said: “What you have to bear in mind is that these guys are away from home for six months at a time, so you have to have a work/ life balance.

“Things have changed but I certainly agree with the need for random breath tests, especially before handing out weapons.”

Ken Collins, a former chief marine engineering mechanic who saw action in the Falklands conflict, agreed.

“When you talk about binge drinkers you’re looking at the average submariner,” Mr Collins, of Ormsgill Lane, Barrow, joked.

“But seriously, it seems incredibly bizarre to me that nobody noticed he (Donovan) was under the influence of alcohol when they issued him his weapon.

“We used to work hard, and play hard, but it never got to the stage where you were drinking 20 pints of lager within 48 hours of going on duty.”

Have your say

I think that drink/drugs "might" be factors but only contributory factors. This lad was clearly in a "non submariner" frame of mind and that drink or drugs or both only served to break the camel's back (Perhaps). I'd argue that the lack of cameraderie these days is possibly more to blame than anything else. Yesteryear - We had any number of situations which directly or indirectly releived stress, tension and unburdened the soul. Games nights, movie nights, crib, uckers etc etc etc saw submariners actually talking to each other and sharing feelings, mickey taking and toughening up. I'm led to believe that these gatherings are sharply in demise as the crew stealing themselves away after to their racks to watch movies or play with their tablets etc etc. Maybe that problems and issues fester beyond control in the confines of one's own rack. Maybe it's something as simple as communication that could have stopped this incident from occuring. How long did this chap brood over his problems without talking about them or people noticing?

I think that the glue that holds the submariner together is eroded, not the drink or drug excuse....Talk more, play games with each other, and bring back the "hot seat"...

Posted by Jason Lockley on 21 January 2013 at 12:58

I'm not sure this goes far enough to solve the issue. Surely if you are a gun handler as part of the process before you start your duty a drug and alcohol test should be compulsory.This way it doesn't discriminate and should make things safer. I'm not sure of any other logistical issues that the procedure would cause but in my humble opinion they should be secondary(Safety First)

Posted by Ron on 17 January 2013 at 13:32

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