Compensation Row as Marchioness Captain's Family Get Biggest Award; SCANDAL ON THE RIVER

Article excerpt

Byline: ANTHONY FRANCE;JOHN STURGIS

THE largest single compensation payment made to any of the relatives of the 51 people killed in the Marchioness disaster went to the family of the pleasure boat's captain, who was partly blamed by the official inquiry, the Evening Standard has learned.

The family of Stephen Faldo, w ho died aged 30 after his boat collided with dredger the Bowbelle, received [pound]190,000. The relatives of some of his passengers received just [pound]3,000. Today some of the families said payments should have been consistent because all the lives lost were worth the same.

They criticised the system which forced them to take their fight for greater compensation as far as the Courtof Appeal.

The amounts paid out after the Marchioness sinking - 12 years ago next Monday - contrast sharply with the large sums offered after other disasters.

Some [pound]1million was reportedly offered to relatives of each of the 113 victims of last year's Air France Concorde crash. An average of [pound]200,000 is being paid to victims of the Paddington rail crash.

The Marchioness payments were made by Commercial Union, insurer of Tidal Cruises - now called Thames Cruises - which owned the pleasure boat.

Seven families did not challenge the initial offer of just [pound]3,000 made soon after the sinking as an interim payment. Others w ho took their cases to court have received considerably more. The average paid out was [pound]22,500; the total, including costs, just over [pound]1.5 mil lion.

Lord Justice Clarke's inquiry into the disaster found Captain Faldo was among those at fault by failing to use a proper lookout sys tem. "If he had done it is more probable than not that the Bow belle would have been observed and the collision avoided," the judge said. He was also concerned the skipper's performance may have been affected by fatigue.

Captain Faldo's payment was so much higher because he left a widow, Deborah, and a son, Lee, now 20, while most of the others w ho died were in their twenties and had no dependants.

A spokeswoman for the insurer, now called CGNU, said: " When compensation cases are calculated, one of the significant factors is earning potential, how that will impact on dependants in the future." She declined to discuss specific compensation awards.

The amount paid to families of many of the young victims is also thought to have been reduced because they were starting their careers and not yet commanding large salaries - though many undoubtedly would have been professionally successful. …