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Cheeki Rafiki: Yachting firm boss pleads not guilty to manslaughter in court

The yacht on which the four crewmen were sailing Photo: Royal Yachting Association/PA Wire

The director of the yachting management firm for the Cheeki Rafiki yacht which capsized in the Atlantic killing its four crew has pleaded not guilty to their manslaughter in a hearing at Winchester Crown Court.

The crew were skipper Andrew Bridge aged 22 from Farnham in Surrey; Steve Warren aged 52, and Paul Goslin, aged 56, both from Somerset; and James Male, aged 23, from Southampton.

The Cheeki Rafiki's crew (left to right) Paul Goslin, James Male, Steve Warren and Andrew Bridge Credit: Royal Yachting Association / PA

The four men were returning the 40ft yacht from Antigua to the UK in May 2014 when the vessel got into difficulty, more than 700 miles from Nova Scotia in Canada.

The US Coastguard called off its search for the men after two days, and was criticised for doing so. The search resumed following protests from family and friends, as well as intervention from the British government. The boat was found, but the men's bodies have not been recovered.

Douglas Innes, the director of Stormforce Coaching Limited, appeared at Winchester Crown Court today to enter his plea of not guilty to four counts of manslaughter by gross negligence.

Mr Innes also denied a further charge of failing to operate the Cheeki Rafiki in a safe manner between 18th March 2013 and 18 May 2014.

Douglas Innes, the director of Stormforce Coaching Limited, pictured on 3 November 2016 Credit: PA WIRE

The company director also appeared as a representative for Stormforce Coaching Ltd, entering a plea of not guilty on the company's behalf - to a charge of failing to ensure the vessel was operated in a safe manner contrary to section 100 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995.

The Judge, Mr Justice Dingemans, adjourned the case for a preliminary hearing to take place on 6 March 2017, and a trial to start on 6 June 2017.

"I am going to remand you on unconditional bail until Monday 6th March when you will have to come back for the preparatory hearing before this court."

– Mr Justice Dingemans speaking to Douglas Innes at Winchester Crown Court