MAIB Report on Seadogz High Speed RIB Fatality
On 22 August 2020 the commercially operated rigid inflatable boat Seadogz hit a navigation buoy at high speed in Southampton Water, England.
The Seadogz RIB crashed into a 4.5 metre high, 5-ton channel marker at a speed of 38.4 knots.
The RIB’s engine stopped abruptly and two of the passengers were catapulted overboard into the water, where their lifejackets inflated.
The skipper and the 11 passengers suffered impact injuries. Emily Lewis, a 15-year-old passenger who was sitting in the middle of the bench seat, was propelled forward into a handhold and sustained fatal injuries.
The passengers had booked a 60-minute rigid inflatable boat trip operating out of Ocean Village Marina, Southampton. After the accident the passengers were rescued by nearby recreational craft, taken back to the marina and transferred to hospital, where Emily sadly died that afternoon. The skipper drove the damaged rigid inflatable boat to a nearby boatyard and was later also taken to hospital.
The MAIB investigation concluded that the skipper did not see the buoy in sufficient time to take avoiding action as he had lost positional awareness, most likely due to the high mental workload associated with operating Seadogz alone at high speed near other marine assets. It also concluded that:
The seating and handholds on Seadogz afforded little protection to the passengers in the event of the rapid deceleration.
The boat’s operator did not have a safety management system, while the risk assessments for the boat were cursory and generic.
There were significant limitations in the regulations for small high-speed commercial passenger craft, with no specific requirements for factors such as crash protection, seat design, forward visibility and a safety management system. Further, the current regulations did not consider the intended operation or high-speed operations of a small commercial craft.
Foreword by Captain Andrew Moll OBE
Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents
The tragic events that took place in Southampton Water on the morning of 22 August 2020 have had an unimaginable impact on all of those affected by the accident. The fact that a passenger excursion on a modern rigid inflatable boat being operated in favourable conditions by an appropriately qualified and highly experienced skipper could result in such terrible consequences is difficult to comprehend.
Two things are especially significant about this tragic accident in which 15-year-old Emily Lewis sadly died and the other passengers all sustained injuries, many of which were serious:
The first is that the accident would likely not have happened had the trip been conducted in line with industry good practice. All skippers of commercial high-speed craft are taught safe boat handling while gaining their qualifications, and there is no excuse for abandoning professional standards when undertaking a high-speed trip or experience ride.
The second is that passengers in small high-speed craft are very vulnerable to impact and vibration injuries. In the last 15 years, the MAIB has investigated numerous accidents involving high-speed passenger craft and made various recommendations to improve the safety of this sector. However, as yet, little has been done to provide proper protection to passengers and crew from these hazards that routinely result in life-changing injury and, occasionally, death.
I am therefore hoping that the maritime regulator, manufacturers and operators of small high-speed passenger craft will take the lessons from this report as a stimulus to action. As the report says, this was an accident waiting to happen. Let it be the last.
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