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Cheeki Rafiki: Yacht firm boss found guilty of failing to ensure safety of vessel which capsized killing four

July 14, 2017 3:06 PM
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Cheeki Rafiki: Yacht firm boss found guilty of failing to ensure safety of vessel which capsized killing four

Skipper Andrew Bridge, 22, was among four who died when the Cheeki Rafiki capsized in the Atlantic in May 2014

The head of a yachting company has been found guilty of failing to ensure the safety of a vessel which capsized in the Atlantic, killing all four men aboard.

Douglas Innes, 42, was on Friday (July 14) convicted of failing to ensure the safety of the Cheeki Rafiki, which lost its keel returning from Antigua to the UK in May 2014.

However, the jury at Winchester Crown Court was discharged by judge Mr Justice Dingemans after failing to reach a verdict on four manslaughter allegations, which they had been debating for more than three days.

Innes, 42, of Whitworth Crescent, Southampton, and his company, Stormforce Coaching Limited, were convicted of failing to operate the yacht in a safe manner, contrary to Section 100 of the Merchant Shipping Act.

Prosecuting, Nigel Lickley QC said a retrial would be sought on the four manslaughter charges.

Innes has been released on unconditional bail. A date for a future hearing is yet to be set.

The Cheeki Rafiki got into difficulties some 700 miles from Nova Scotia, Canada.

Mr Bridge was accompanied by James Male 22, from Southampton, and Steve Warren, 52, and Paul Goslin, 56, both from Somerset. All four men died.

The US Coastguard was initially criticised for calling off its search after just two days.

But after protests by family and friends and intervention by the British government, the search resumed and the boat found - but with no sign of the four crew.

Mr Lickley told the jury Innes and his company had been in charge of the Cheeki Rafiki, named after a character in the Lion King, for three years.

He said the prosecution case was the yacht, which had grounded on three occasions in the past three years, had an undetected fault.

He claimed bolts holding the three-tonne keel to the hull failed, causing it to fall off during the bad weather during the voyage.

Mr Lickley also claimed during the trial the yacht was not appropriately coded, or licensed, for the voyage and Innes had chosen an "unsafe" northern route.

Innes told the court any fault with the keel had lain hidden and would not necessarily have been found by an inspector, and that he believed the yacht had not required the coding because he did not consider the journey to be a commercial voyage.

He also denied he had cut costs or tried to save time by sending the yacht back to the UK via the northern route.

Mr Lickley said that Innes had a "duty of care" to the four men and "not to save money at every turn" and not to put "profit over compliance" with the yacht's coding, or commercial certificate, with the Yacht Designers and Surveyors Association (YDSA).

"The yacht was therefore unsound, broken and unsafe before the four men left Antigua," he said.

"The yacht had been neglected, not maintained and importantly, because the yacht was used commercially by Mr Innes and his company, not inspected as required."

The trial also heard when Innes received an email from skipper Mr Bridge, headed as "urgent", he carried on drinking in a pub before only later alerting the Coastguard.

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Also read: Man appears in court to deny murdering restaurant boss Giuseppi Roncari

Source: getsurrey.co.uk

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