The skipper and five crewmembers were checking the anchor securing arrangement during a heavy weather passage. The sailing yacht began pitching and two waves swept over the bow. One seaman was able to obtain cover from the seas. The skipper and other four crewmembers, who were facing aft at the time, were unaware of the approaching seas. The impact of the waves tossed them from the forecastle to various locations on the forward deck. The skipper and one seaman died as a result of their injuries. The remaining injured seamen were ultimately airlifted to a hospital.
Why did this happen?
The skipper, acting on his own initiative, placed himself and those assisting him in a high-risk situation by checking the anchor securing arrangement in heavy weather without first assessing the risks. He did not notify the skipper or the Officer of the Watch that personnel would be working on the forecastle deck and they were both unaware of the task being performed. The skipper underestimated the weather conditions and the potential effects on the mission being attempted. He, and the five crew members assisting him, all failed to wear safety harnesses with lifelines.
What can we learn?
Lifelines attached to the railings may have prevented the mariners from being washed from the forecastle deck and could have reduced the extent of the injuries.
It is important to notify the skipper and Officer of the Watch when work is being performed on deck, especially during adverse weather.
It is easy for even experienced personnel to underestimate the potential effects that adverse weather may have on the jobs being performed.
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