Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

New safety advice after woman crushed in boat accident

RIB Osprey vessels Image copyright MAIB Publications
Image caption The woman suffered multiple injures in the collision on 19 July last year

Marine accident investigators have issued new safety instructions after a woman was seriously injured in a collision between two inflatable boats.

The 45-year-old mother-of-two suffered a punctured lung and permanent damage to her sight following the crash on the Firth of Forth last summer.

The woman had been part of an organised trip to the Isle of May seabird haven.

She was crushed after being seated on an inflatable tube on the boat, used when passenger numbers were high.

The accident happened onboard the Osprey II, which normally carried eight passengers to the Isle of May from Anstruther Harbour.

However, on 19 July 2016, the vessel was carrying 11 passengers, including seven adults and four children.

Increased speed

The boat's sister craft, Osprey, was also in the water and was carrying 12 passengers, including 11 adults and one child.

Investigators were told that passenger spaces on Osprey II were normally limited to the eight spaces available on its four bench seats, but in good weather two additional spaces were sold, with the extra passengers sitting in designated positions on its inflatable tubes.

On the day of the accident, the skipper of each boat - known as rigid inflatable boats (RIB) - had increased speed and started a power turn away from each other with the intention of passing each other in the course of completing a round turn.

Image caption The woman was part of a trip to the Isle of May seabird haven

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) report said that as the vessels turned towards each other, it became apparent to both skippers they were in danger of colliding. Despite skippers both acting quickly to reduce their speed, they were unable to prevent the collision.

The report said: "Passengers not sitting on suitable inboard seating have an increased risk of falling overboard, are at significant risk of musculoskeletal injuries and are more exposed to serious injury in the event of a collision."

The injured woman, who was on the vessel with her husband and two children aged eight and 12, was taken to hospital after the incident and was put into an induced coma, having suffered two broken collar bones, five broken ribs, a punctured lung and lacerations and bruising to her back and torso.

The internal injuries she sustained in the accident also resulted in permanent damage to her sight in both eyes.

'Several accidents'

There are currently no regulations to prevent people on RIBs from sitting on the inflatable tubes, but the MAIB said they are at increased risk in that position.

The MAIB has recommended the Maritime and Coastguard Agency's (MCA) forthcoming recreational craft code includes the stipulation that the certified maximum number of passengers carried on commercially-operated passenger-carrying RIBs should be limited to the number of suitable seats designated for passengers.

Isle of May Boat Trips Ltd, which owns and operates the two vessels, has banned passengers and crew from sitting on the inflatable tubes of Osprey and Osprey II, and has limited passenger numbers to 12 and eight respectively.

It has also issued an instruction that twin RIB operations are not to take place except in an emergency and has reviewed its risk assessments to ensure they incorporate all activities undertaken by Osprey and Osprey II.

Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents, Steve Clinch, said the MAIB had investigated several accidents in which people had been injured as a result of inappropriate seating on RIBs, and the faster the RIB was travelling, the greater the risk.

He confirmed passenger limit recommendations have been made to the MAC, and added: "We have also made a recommendation to the Royal Yachting Association and Passenger Boating Association aimed at improving the guidance available to the operators of commercial passenger-carrying RIBs."