The 13 were among the last passengers boarding the Prins Filip, a Belgian ferry run by Oostende Lines, bound for Ostend just before 1am yesterday. As they went through the first of the walkway's three sections, it collapsed, throwing them 56 feet on to a steel pontoon below.
The pin was part of the mechanism linking sections of the gangway. The accident was at low tide when the gangway was nearly level with the ship, which may have added stress to the joints.
The victims were a woman and five men, including a 34-year-old from Salford. Five died instantly and one later in hospital. The injured - four Americans, a Japanese man, a Briton and an Austrian - were taken to hospital. An American was later released, but the others, who had multiple fractures and spinal injuries, were detained.
The Prins Filip was delayed for 12 hours while the injured were rescued and police interviewed witnesses. Local Health and Safety Executive officials and port engineers yesterday began an investigation and a team of HSE metallurgists and mechanical engineers was sent from Sheffield.
The 100ft walkway, designed and built by a Swedish company, FEAB, was opened for passenger traffic in March.
Passengers' fears, page 2Reuse content