Drowned yachtsmen had time to inflate lifejackets

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The Independent Online

Details emerged yesterday of how three yachtsmen, found drowned in the sea off the Isle of Wight, fought for their lives and found time to inflate their lifejackets.

James Meaby and Rupert Saunders, both 36, from Tooting, south London, and Jason Downer, 35, from Kent, were discovered in the Channel last month, but their 25ft yacht, a sailfish sloop called The Ouzo, has not been seen. Police are investigating whether another ship hit the yacht.

An inquest heard yesterday that Mr Meaby and Mr Downer had time to manually inflate their lifejackets. Mr Saunders was also found wearing a lifejacket but his had automatically inflated.

Tests carried out on the men suggested that Mr Meaby had been in the water for some time fighting hypothermia before he died. His two friends drowned without showing signs of hypothermia.

The details emerged during a brief opening and adjournment into the deaths on 20 August. The Isle of Wight Coroner, John Matthews, told the hearing how the body of Mr Meaby was discovered on 22 August and the bodies of Mr Downer and Mr Saunders were located a day later.

This week, Hampshire Police examined the hull of the P&O ferry The Pride of Bilbao at Portsmouth, as well as its black box data recorder on Tuesday. Police believe the men's yacht may have been in collision with a larger vessel and the police focused on the P&O ship after "something of interest" was seen on the black box.