A TRAWLER skipper who was texting when his boat swamped four men on a fishing trip would have been able to see them, a court heard.

David Brooks Marr, 53, was captain of the Vertrouwen when the four friends were washed overboard.

Three of the men on board the James 2, all Romanian nationals, drowned.

The only survivor Elvis Cojocariu was found hours later clinging to a buoy in the Channel off Shoreham.

The Vertrouwen left Shoreham for Grimsby after the James 2 on the Bank Holiday weekend in 2017.

Lewes Crown court heard that as the friends drifted with their lines in the water, the scallop dredger steamed straight towards them at 7.5 knots.

Coastguard Enforcement Officer Andrew Philips said the Maritime and Coastguard Agency had carried out a

reconstruction of the incident.

“I’m satisfied the James 2 should have been visible from the Vertrouwen,” Captain Philips told the court yesterday.

The three men, Mercea “Mitch” Ilea, 40, from Brighton, Irinel Popovici, 41, and Treaiam Dumitrache, 50, died when waves from the Vertrouwen swamped their tiny river cruiser which was unsuitable for use at sea, the court heard.

Mr Philips said the Maritime and Coastguard Agency reconstruction established the James 2 would have been visible up to a quarter of a mile away on the calm sea.

It was a warm, moonlit night, with no wind, the court heard.

The James 2 was less than two miles away from Shoreham.

“At harbour entrances, you would expect to see some sort of recreational anglers and small vessels transiting the coast,” Captain Philips said.

Real time radar tracks of both vessels played to the jury showed their paths crossing at 25 minutes past midnight on August 6, 2017.

The jury was shown a picture of Marr’s phone which shows he sent a WhatsApp message at 24 minutes past midnight.

Less than two minutes later, the James 2 no longer appears on the Shoreham harbour radar scan.

Iain Clark, the first mate of the Vertrouwen, said he believed Marr would have reacted if he was aware the boat was involved in the incident.

“I’m a 100 per cent confident he would have stopped the boat and alerted people if he knew about it,” he told a jury.

Marr, of Peterhead in Aberdeenshire, denies failing to set a proper watch.

The trial at Lewes Crown Court continues.