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Old 24 April 2007, 13:12   #1
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Owner And Skipper Of Dive Boat Prosecuted

Maritime & Coastguard Agency

Press Notice No: 119/07
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Posted 12:25 GMT


On 13th August 2005, the dive boat Sovereign II owned by Sovereign Diving Limited and skippered by Christopher Wilson sailed on a diving trip from Seahouses to the Farne Islands with a party of nine divers.

The trip turned to tragedy when one of the divers Michael Ward of Loughborough in Leicestershire, was struck by the propellers as he was returning to the boat. He lost his left leg and suffered such severe injury to his right leg that it has been pinned and cannot be flexed.
The quick reactions of his dive buddy and nearby charter boat called Moby, ensured that Mr Ward was taken back to port quickly where a doctor and nurses who were passing by gave help. A trauma surgeon, who was diving nearby, also sped back to Seahouses where he took charge of the medical team and accompanied Mr Ward to Newcastle General Hospital.
Investigations by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) revealed that the skipper Christopher Wilson did not hold the necessary certificate of competence to be in charge of the boat. Mr Wilson was employed by Sovereign Divers Ltd as crew on their passenger boat Sovereign IV. However when the skipper of Sovereign II left in early July, Wilson was made skipper. He had been sailing as skipper without a certificate of competence for five or six weeks before the incident date.
In Newcastle Crown Court on Monday 16th April 2007, Mr Toby Douglas, a director of Sovereign Diving Ltd., and Christopher Wilson, the skipper of Sovereign II, pleaded guilty to a breach of the Code of Practice for Small Commercial Vessels, also known as the yellow code.
Sovereign Diving was fined 5,000 and ordered to pay 3,500 towards costs, and Christopher Wilson was fined 500 and was ordered to pay 500 towards costs.

Captain Allan Marsh, Enforcement Officer stated This was a very tragic incident. Owners and Skippers of dive vessels are reminded that they are responsible for ensuring full compliance with the Code of Practice and that their vessels are operated in a safe manner.
When involved in diving operations, the MCA recommends that propeller guards are fitted.
In this case, the Sovereign II was a single handed operation. The owner/managing agent should ensure that there are sufficient additional crew on board having regard to the type and duration of voyage being undertaken.
In passing sentence on Tuesday 24th April 2007, the His Honour judge John Evans said

This case demonstrates all too unhappily two things. Firstly, that underwater diving, whether it be commercial or pleasure based, is a potentially hazardous activity. Secondly, that it demonstrates that there is a need to carefully regulate the way that those who are involved with it either as a sport or a business go about it, that includes not just the divers themselves, but equally their support crew.

The dangers in this case graphically demonstrate the dangers of this activity. What happens off the Blue Cap Rocks on the 13th August 2005, and the outcome for Mr Ward which left him with severe injuries should serve as a constant reminder in the future of these principles.
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Old 24 April 2007, 16:41   #2
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Originally Posted by Polwart View Post
Christopher Wilson was fined 500 and was ordered to pay 500 towards costs.
Hardly a major disincentive to others! I've dived with these guys in the past, quite safely as well.


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Old 26 April 2007, 10:26   #3
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Interesting that the skipper was fined for not being qualified, and the company for letting him operate - but not for operating single handed.

My coding only allows single handed operation when not undertaking 'over the side' operations - if I was taking divers I would definately have crew on board as well.

A sad story - but it doesn't say how or why the diver ended up where he did and got entangled - just focuses on the qualification issue.

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Old 26 April 2007, 11:28   #4
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Looks like it isnt over yet, the diver is in a local club here, he was very lucky in the rescue and being fairly big and strong himself.

This does not strengthen the case for Sovereign but it may force the diver to seek a civil prosecution for his injuries.
New boat is here, very happy!
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Old 05 May 2007, 15:15   #5
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I was involved in this case as Toby and his staff came to me for an Advanced course and Commercial Exam after the accident.

They spent 5 days with me then sat their exam. I wasn't chuffed about the fact that they did not mention to me anything about the accident although when I asked Toby later, he did say that it really had nothing to do with me which is perfectly true. I must say that the guys were very competent when with me for the course and because of the link with the commerical licensing I tend to run a very comprehensive no nonsense advanced course as I see most of you guys do.

Nevertheless I was interviewed and called as a witness for the prosecution by the MCA enforcement officer. Anyway they pled guilty to the charges listed and i was not called up , I felt really awkward about being a witness against my customers although they were fine with it.

Yes I think a civil case will follow and when it is over is probably the most prudent time to say more but in the meantime if you carefully read the Judges words and look at the convictions that did not come out of it, well what can I say it kindda speaks for itself. There was a whole lot more involved than has been reported in the press!
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