Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Boat Tragedy School 'Failed to Carry out Safety Checks'; Teacher Was Unaware That Girl, 9, Was Missing

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Boat Tragedy School 'Failed to Carry out Safety Checks'; Teacher Was Unaware That Girl, 9, Was Missing

Article excerpt

A NINE-YEAR-OLD girl drowned under an upturned boat after her teacher failed to conduct a roll call or head count following the capsize of the craft, an official accident report disclosed today.

It was only after the 64-year-old teacher and eight pupils were rescued by another boat at least nine minutes after the accident that Victoria Bee warned that her twin sister, Elizabeth, was missing.

Elizabeth was found under the upturned 14ft flat-bottomed dory and given first aid, but died later in hospital, the report said.

Water seepage had meant that the dory became "grossly overloaded", it said, adding that the craft had never been professionally surveyed while owned by the independent Boundary Oak School of Fare-ham, Hampshire.

Science teacher Paul Dove had taken nine pupils out on the Fountain Lake part of Portsmouth Harbour on the afternoon of 16 September, 1999, said the report by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch.

He was not trained to the standards of the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority, and his supervision of the children was "at best lax and, at worst, non-existent", the report said.

The MAIB said the "tragic" accident highlighted "various failings in equipment, maintenance and organisation". The hull of the boat was not watertight, which had allowed sea water to soak into foam in the craft's floor, weighing it down and making it unstable.

High spirits from the pupils - mostly aged nine - and the excitement of a jellyfish sting all led to water getting into the boat, which had a history of stalling. When the engine stalled for the second time that afternoon, Mr Dove told four pupils to start paddling. The craft then capsized.

There was no direct telephone link from the sailing centre at HMS Excellent on Whale Island, Portsmouth, to contact emergency services. …

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