Northern Ireland

Downtown Radio hired boat route 'not properly planned'

The Lord Rank
Image caption The Lord Rank was a 70ft Oyster ketch which could accommodate 18 people

A sail training vessel which hit rocks and sank while working for Downtown Radio in a charity fundraiser, was not following a properly planned route, an investigation has found.

The Ocean Youth Trust's 70ft Lord Rank hit rocks near Ballycastle in June.

A helicopter and two lifeboats were sent to rescue the DJs and three others before the yacht sank off Kinbane Head.

The Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents said "professional standards need to be maintained at all times".

A preliminary report by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch said Ocean Youth Trust Ireland had "since taken a number of positive actions to ensure the future safe operation of its vessels, including a review of its procedures and their implementation on board".

'No passage planning'

Presenters Johnny Hero, Dougi Marshall and Robert Skates were on the yacht, which was being used for Downtown's Cash for Kids charity.

It was on its way to Portrush when it got into difficulties.

The report said there had been no "passage planning" to chart the boat's proposed journey and assess possible risks.

"On clearing the breakwater, the skipper ordered the helmsman to head in a northerly direction.

"About 10 minutes later he ordered the helmsman to alter course to port and head towards a visual reference point. No further position monitoring was undertaken."

The boat left Ballycastle at 2100 but ran aground 23 minutes later. The skipper broadcast an urgent call for help and the Coastguard began a rescue operation.

A dinghy was used to get the six men off the yacht - they had to jump into it for the transfer to the main RNLI boat.

Dougi Marshall fell into the sea in the process of this, but was quickly pulled out by the lifeboat crew.

Ocean Youth Trust Ireland, an educational charity which specialises in sail training, is currently trying to raise up to 500,000 euros with a view to replacing the Lord Rank. So far it has raised just over 12,000 euros.

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