Ben Woollacott Ferry death: Serco fined £200,000 for deckhand fatality

Ben Woollacott Image copyright Other
Image caption Ben Woollacott a sixth-generation Thames Waterman when he died in 2011

A company has been fined £200,000 over the death of a teenage deckhand who fell from a River Thames ferry.

Ben Woollacott, 19, of Swanley, Kent, died in 2011 after being dragged from the Woolwich Ferry while mooring ropes were being untied.

The then company in charge, Serco Ltd, was found guilty of failing to ensure the health and safety of its crew.

At Inner London Court the company was told it must pay the fine and court costs of £220,000.

The court cleared it of failing to ensure the safe operation of the Ernest Bevin.

Mr Woollacott had been preparing the ferry for service when he was dragged overboard by a mooring rope, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said.

'Tragic incident'

A report by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch in 2012 found he suffered head injuries and was most likely dragged violently against the side of the ferry by the rope which was being wound in and had tangled in the vessel's propeller.

He drowned despite his life jacket bringing him to the surface and the quick actions of his colleagues, it said.

Andrew Rudge, from the MCA, said: "This was a tragic incident and our sympathy goes out to the family of Ben Woollacott.

"This case serves as a reminder that owners and operators of ships should review their procedures and risk assessments regularly, ensure they are fit for purpose and are being used correctly by their employees."

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