Arrest made in British sailors’ deaths - Soundings Online

Arrest made in British sailors’ deaths

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British investigators arrested a senior officer on a passenger ferry in connection with the deaths of three sailors whose boat disappeared in the English Channel off the Isle of Wight in August

British investigators arrested a senior officer on a passenger ferry in connection with the deaths of three sailors whose boat disappeared in the English Channel off the Isle of Wight in August.

The officer, a 61-year-old man from Dover, England, was arrested Sept. 20 on suspicion of manslaughter through gross negligence, says Susan Rolling, Hampshire Police communications manager. Rolling says the man was employed by an agency to work on the Pride of Bilbao — a 580-foot 2,500-passenger ferry that travels between Portsmouth, England, and Bilbao, Spain — and was the officer on watch when the ferry is said to have been in the area where the 26-foot Sailfish, Ouzo, disappeared.

On Aug. 22 fishermen discovered the body of 36-year-old South London resident James Meaby, a crewmember aboard Ouzo, in the English Channel about 10 miles southeast of the Isle of Wight. Police marine units and members of England’s Maritime and Coast Guard Agency launched a search for the two other men on the boat: Rupert Saunders, 36, of South London — skipper and owner of Ouzo — and Jason Downer, 35, of Kent. They were found in the Channel the following day about five miles north of where Meaby was found. All three were wearing inflated PFDs.

Downer, Meaby and Saunders had set out Aug. 20 from Bembridge, on the Isle of Wight, bound for Devon, England, where they planned to participate in the three-day Port of Dartmouth Royal Regatta. Although the families of the men say Ouzo was well-equipped, authorities received no distress call or signal from the crew.

Investigators were looking into the possibility that the sailboat collided with a larger vessel, possibly at night, and sank. They requested the travel logs and other information from a number of vessels that were in the Channel around the time of the accident, Rolling says. After examining the Pride of Bilbao’s hull and studying its black box data, investigators determined that the ferry was in the area where the sailors’ bodies were found.

The arrested man, whom Rolling wouldn’t name, was released on bail pending further inquiries, she says.