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November 16th, 2011

Crewmember in UK Ferry Accident Was Distracted at Time of Accident

Distracted operation of a vessel may involve more than cell phones and texting devices as maritime lawyers often see. The captain of a British ferry that crashed into a French fishing vessel in March this year was distracted by, among other things, a discussion of the way actress Halle Berry looked like in the movie, “Catwoman.”

According to an investigative report into the crash, the 56-year-old captain of the ferry was joking with his crew members about the movie. He had seen “Catwoman” the previous day, and had plenty to say about it. As the captain and his crewmembers were distracted in this manner, the vessel was sailing through foggy weather in poor visibility. The vessel was traveling at full speed at the time. Minutes later, the ferry crashed into the fishing vessel.

The impact of the collision was so great that the 30-foot fishing vessel broke into two. The 42-year-old captain of the fishing boat was killed immediately.

The captain of the ferry did not even realize that his vessel had been in an accident that had just killed a person. He announced to the 194 passengers on board, that the ferry had just collided with an object in the water, likely a “buoy or a piece of wood.” However, one of the passengers on the ferry had seen the collision, and knew that the ferry had struck a fishing vessel. He informed the captain about this.

The accident occurred in the waters between St Helier in Jersey and St Malo in France in March. The investigation found that the ferry had been traveling at 37 kn, which is almost top speed. The report blames continuous distractions in the wheelhouse, poor lookout and a lack of concentration for the accident.

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