Ship's actions 'illegal and immoral' after crash

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The Independent Online

The failure of a cargo ship to stop after a collision that left a Devon fisherman dead was "illegal, immoral and against all the traditions of the sea", a marine accident report said.

The body of Chris Wadsworth, 21, from Teignmouth, Devon, was never recovered after the fishing boat Etoile des Ondes sank after a collision with the 47,000-tonne bulk carrier Alam Pintar in the English Channel.

Three other crew members of the fishing boat survived after boarding a liferaft and being rescued by a ferry in the incident 17 miles north of the Cherbourg Peninsula on the evening of December 20 last year.

A report from the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) said: "The master and officer of the watch of Alam Pintar were aware of the collision, but failed to stop.

"They made no attempt to confirm if Etoile des Ondes and her crew were safe, and failed to report the incident. There is evidence to suggest that the crew of Alam Pintar subsequently attempted to alter recorded contemporaneous data to mask the vessel's involvement in the accident."

The report said that Mayday messages were put out but were ignored by the master of the Alam Pintar, and other vessels in the area failed to respond.

The MAIB said the Alam Pintar's master's action in continuing to sail on was "illegal, immoral and against all the traditions of the sea".

The report said that after the accident MAIB inspectors had boarded the Alam Pintar in Hamburg.

The report went on: "They were presented with several items of recorded evidence, purporting to be a true record of the vessel's passage.

"It became apparent that these records had been systematically altered to indicate that the vessel had not been involved in an incident during the evening of December 20."

The MAIB said that the "consequences and ramifications of these actions" were the subject of a separate investigation by the Singapore maritime authorities.

The report also said that none of the crewmen of the Etoile des Ondes - registered in Weymouth, Dorset - was wearing any flotation device.

The Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents had written to the Etoile des Ondes owner in 2005 recommending the crew wore buoyancy aids while working on deck after the loss overboard of a crew member.

The MAIB said crew members did wear such aids for a while but most no longer wore them because of discomfort.

Mr Wadsworth, however, had continued to wear his "bib and brace" device, with an incorporated lifejacket. But in a recent incident the lifejacket had accidentally inflated.

The report went on: "This had caused him some distress and made it difficult for him to breathe. The lifejacket needed to be punctured to deflate it for removal. After this incident, he stopped wearing any flotation device."

The report also said that the decision of the Etoile des Ondes to resume its "shooting pots" fishing activities was "ill-considered" and that modification made to the vessel made it difficult for the skipper - Chris Bebb - to see the actions taken by the Alam Pintar.