Keilder Water tragedy investigation

The RYA conclude their report into July's incident when a father and daughter lost their lives

Thursday September 3rd 2009, Author: Emma Slater, Location: United Kingdom
Following a full investigation made by the RYA in to the tragic accident at Keilder Water Sailing Club, Northumberland, on 12 July, in which a father and daughter tragically lost their lives, the MAIB have decided that a full MAIB investigation will not be necessary and have accepted recommendations made by the RYA.

A preliminary investigation was made by the MAIB in which Keilder Water SC was commended as to the high standard at which they run the club and the valiant efforts made to save the lives of both Geoff (52) and Victoria (17) Wilkinson.

Following its investigation, the RYA put forward a number of recommendations to the MAIB which have been accepted; including:

- Dinghy sailors should always consider going straight to the centreboard or daggerboard to prevent inversion and then allow time and opportunity for any entrapment to be resolved by those involved or by safety boat crews.
- Safety boat crews should practice how to deal with inversions and the recovery of casualties into safety boats. In addition to this also consider how crews would perform CPR in the restricted confines of their safety boats to determine the best approach.
- Dinghy sailors should be encouraged to use centreboard / daggerboard elastic tie backs or tie downs as means of preventing CB retraction during inversions.

The RYA will also be highlighting the potential hazards of entanglement in trapeze wires or associated elastic cordage to the sailing public, as well as making any relevant reviews to its training programmes to highlight the prevention of inversion during capsize drills.

The accident happened when the Laser Stratos dinghy, sailed by the Wilkinsons, capsized and inverted during a club race event. The investigation reveals that it is likely that when a gust of wind hit the boat, heeling it over and capsizing the craft, causing Victoria to fall forwards onto the sail and/or rigging. Somehow during the capsize Victoria’s left leg/ankle became entangled in the port hand trapeze wire. Geoff may also have fallen or jumped forwards into the water and/or sail.

There is little evidence to suggest Geoffrey was entrapped so it is assumed that he continued to support Victoria and died in his attempt to rescue his daughter. Both were taken to Newcastle General Hospital by two Air Ambulances. Geoff Wilkinson sadly died the same day, whilst Victoria who was placed on a life support machine, later died on the afternoon of Tuesday the 14 July.

RYA National Sailing Coach, John Thorn, who undertook the investigation on behalf of the RYA said: “This is a truly tragic accident and our thoughts go out to the Wilkinson family. It is clear that everyone involved in the rescue attempt followed procedures correctly and swiftly making every effort to save Geoff and Victoria.

“From any accident we need to see what lessons can be learnt and we, the RYA, will be working hard to raise the awareness as to the importance of preventing dinghy inversion and providing guidance to clubs regarding safety boat cover during racing events.”

It is worth remembering that according to participation surveys, over 400,000 people sail regularly in small boats and dinghies and capsizes in dinghy sailing and racing are common occurrences and are usually resolved without incident.

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