Lessons to be learned

The RYA has released a report following the tragic death of a Laser 4000 crew over the summer

Wednesday December 12th 2007, Author: Emma Slater, Location: United Kingdom
Following its investigation in to the tragic death of a Laser 4000 crew during the National Championships in July this year, the RYA today, 11 December, outlines its findings and recommendations.

The report confirms that the tragedy was the result of the crew being unable to free himself from the rigging of his Laser 4000 dinghy when the boat capsized and inverted, despite the efforts of both the helm and the safety boats on the scene.

It was found on subsequent examination of the boat and personal equipment that there was a 40 0 bend in the crew’s trapeze hook and a matching twist in the port lower shroud, which pointed to being the most likely cause of the entrapment and the resulting cause of death of drowning.

John Thorn, RYA National Sailing Coach points out the lessons we can learn and recommendations from the report. “This is a tragic loss of life and our deepest sympathies go out to the family. There are, however, important lessons we can all learn from this. Firstly sailors need to be aware that some dinghies can invert very quickly after an initial capsize. The speed of inversion reduces the time available to release any crew who might be trapped.

“Our investigations also found that dinghy trapeze harness hooks have been involved in several near miss incidents of entrapment and two previous fatalities. One of these also involved another Laser 4000. Consequently the RYA will determine and recommend an ISO standard or set of requirements for harness equipment in order to assist manufacturers in the design and production of effective and suitable quick release systems for dinghy trapeze harnesses.”

“By working closely with manufacturers and class associations we need to raise awareness of the risks and hazards surrounding capsize and inversion and the use and wearing of harnesses, as well as highlight the issues around entrapment.

“Sailing is a safe sport but this type of accident does, on rare occasions, happen. By educating people on the dangers we hope we can reduce the number of entrapment incidents”, John concluded.

The report also stresses the need for the RYA and MAIB to highlight to organisations and investigating authorities; to preserve all evidence on scene, including the vessel that is connected with a marine accident until after an investigation has taken place.

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