Report: Repair Led to Fatal Accident on Historic Ship

Depth of moisture penetration into the mast (image courtesy BSU)

By MarEx 2016-10-04 20:53:10

Germany's Federal Bureau of Maritime Casualty Investigation has released a preliminary report on the fatal accident on the sailing vessel Amicitia. On August 21, three male passengers aboard the historic clipper were struck and killed by falling rigging. 

At the time of the incident, the Amicitia was under way on the Wattengewässer, manned by 12 German passengers, the vessel's captain and one crewmember. At 1350 hours, as she was on a starboard tack in light airs, the foremast gave way: the top 20 feet of the mast, plus the gaff, sails and associated rigging collapsed onto the deck, killing three passengers below. 

Dutch and German investigators examined the mast five days after the accident, with especial attention to the area of the break. 

Underneath a stainless steel wear sleeve screwed to the mast, they found repairs executed by placement of wooden wedges into mast sections which were previously rotten or worn. Water could gather under the stainless sleeve, entering into the wood at the point of the repair and leading to rot. 

Investigators found moisture penetrating all the way to the core of the mast at the point of the break, and they estimated that only about 25 percent of the mast's wood was still present for strength. 

The German authorities noted that their results are preliminary while a Dutch investigation continues. However, they warned German operators that the same type of incident could happen on any similarly equipped vessel with wooden masts, and urged them to carefully inspect their rigging and repair work – especially on working passenger vessels. 

The captain of the vessel, who is also reported to be her owner, may be a suspect in an ongoing police investigation. He was briefly arrested and interrogated following the accident.