Tug Owner Jailed over Crew Death
A tug boat owner was sentenced to eight months in jail on Friday after his crew member died trying to reattach a tow line in a violent storm.
During the hearing at UK’s Southampton Crown Court, Martin Richley owner and skipper of 9.5m Medway tug boat Endurance pleaded guilty to serious offences under the Merchant Shipping Act.
The case related to events in February 2013. On February 3, the Endurance began to tow a 60ft motor cruiser Sirus M from the River Medway to Brighton on the south coast of England. Richley was on board the Endurance acting as skipper along with Steven Trice acting as the crew.
As the Endurance left the Medway, Richley was warned by Medway Vessel Traffic Monitoring Station (VTS) that strong winds up to gale force 8 had been forecast. Richley decided to continue on his journey to Brighton even though he was not qualified to carry out the passage and his tug was licensed only for use in favorable weather conditions.
Shortly before midnight on February 4, in gale force winds whilst on route to Brighton the tow line between the Endurance and the Sirius M snapped as they passed Beachy Head. Trice fell overboard and was lost whilst trying to reattach the vessels.
Dover and Solent Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres coordinated the search. Newhaven and Eastbourne lifeboats battled high seas and violent storm force winds in their attempt to find and rescue Trice.
The search continued for several hours, but he was not found. His body was recovered several weeks later.
In passing sentence His Honour Judge Ralls Q.C said “This was a catalogue of disasters, Mr Richly was prepared to take a chance…. it was a disaster waiting to happen after a series of bad decisions.”
Captain Andrew Rudge, MCA Area Operations Manager said; “This was a tragic incident that should not have happened. Mr Richley should not have accepted to take on the tow as he was ill equipped, unqualified and his vessel was not suitable.”