Watch officer charged

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FEB. 9 — A British senior watch officer on a passenger ferry was charged this week in connection with the deaths of three sailors whose boat disappeared in the English Channel off the Isle of Wight in August.

British authorities Thursday charged the 61-year-old man, from Dover, England, with three counts of manslaughter through gross negligence, a Reuters news report says. Authorities say 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.

The bodies of British sailors James Meaby, 36; Rupert Saunders, 36; and skipper Jason Downer, 35, were discovered Aug. 22 and 23 in the English Channel. The men had set out Aug. 20 from Bembridge, on the Isle of Wight, and planned to participate in the three-day Port of Dartmouth Royal Regatta in Devon, England. Authorities received no distress call or signal from the crew. Their 26-foot Sailfish, Ouzo, has not been found.

Investigators arrested the ferry officer in September on suspicion that the vessel had collided with Ouzo and that he was on watch at the time of the accident, but he was later released on bail.

Jason Fell