England

Cheeki Rafiki deaths: Yacht firm boss guilty of safety breach

Douglas Innes Image copyright PA
Image caption Douglas Innes ran Stormforce Coaching, the company responsible for the Cheeki Rafiki

The boss of a yachting firm has been found guilty of failing to ensure the safety of a boat which capsized in the Atlantic with the loss of four lives.

Douglas Innes had been responsible for the Cheeki Rafiki, which lost its keel 700 miles off Nova Scotia in May 2014.

His company, Stormforce Coaching, was also convicted of the same charge.

The jury at Winchester Crown Court was discharged after failing to reach verdicts on four manslaughter charges, which will be the subject of a retrial.

The guilty verdicts on the safety charges were by a majority of 10-1.

Image copyright Other
Image caption The bodies of James Male, Andrew Bridge, Steve Warren, Paul Goslin have never been found

Andrew Bridge, 22, from Farnham in Surrey, James Male, 22, from Southampton, Steve Warren, 52, and Paul Goslin, 56, both from Somerset, had been returning the 40ft (12m) vessel to Southampton from Antigua Sailing Week when it capsized.

The US Coastguard was criticised for calling off its search for the stricken vessel after two days, but it was restarted following intervention by the British government.

The vessel was eventually found with the life raft but no sign of the four men. Their bodies have never been found.

Image copyright US Navy
Image caption Jurors were told some of the bolts holding the keel in place had been broken for some time

During the trial, Innes, 42, of Whitworth Crescent, Southampton, was accused of cost cutting and failing to get the vessel checked before the voyage.

Prosecutor Nigel Lickley QC told jurors the yacht had been given a "category two" code, which meant it was only authorised to be used commercially up to 60 miles away from a "safe haven", and the code certificate had expired shortly before the tragedy.

The court also heard the vessel, which had grounded three times in three years, had an undetected fault with the bolts which held the keel to the hull.

Image copyright SWNS
Image caption The vessel had been on its way to Southampton from Antigua Sailing Week

Jurors were told that when Innes was contacted by Mr Bridge to inform him there was a problem on board Innes, who was in a pub at the time, did not inform the coastguard.

Instead, he went to another pub where he was again contacted by Mr Bridge who told him the situation had worsened.

Innes returned home, called the coastguard and emailed the crew suggesting they check the bolts of the keel.

Mr Lickley said it later emerged that some of the bolts had been broken "for some time" before the yacht left the UK in October.

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