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Company boss guilty of failing to ensure safety of yacht which killed four sailors when it capsized

  • Watch Sally Simmonds full report below

A yachting company boss has been found guilty of failing to ensure the safety of the Cheeki Rafiki yacht in which four sailors were killed when it capsized in the mid-Atlantic.

A jury at Winchester Crown Court convicted Douglas Innes, of Whitworth Crescent, Southampton, for failing to operate the yacht in a safe manner.

His company, Stormforce Coaching Limited, was also convicted of failing to operate the yacht in a safe manner.

The jury has been discharged, but have failed to reach a verdict on manslaughter charges against Douglas Innes.

(L-R clockwise) Paul Goslin, James Male, Steve Warren and Andrew Bridge of the Cheeki RafikiPhoto: Family photos

Innes, 42, showed no emotion as the chairman of the 11-person jury announced the verdicts for the two charges which were reached by a majority of 10-1.

The trial has heard that the Cheeki Rafiki lost its keel as the crew were returning the 40ft yacht from Antigua to the UK in May 2014 when it got into trouble more than 700 miles from Nova Scotia.

The four crew members were skipper Andrew Bridge, 22, from Farnham in Surrey, with James Male, 22, from Southampton, as well as Steve Warren, 52, and Paul Goslin, 56, both from Somerset.

The US Coastguard was criticised for calling off its search after two days but after protests from family and friends and intervention by the British government, the search was restarted and the boat found but without any sign of the four men.

Nigel Lickley QC, prosecuting, told the jury that Innes and his company had been in charge of the Cheeki Rafiki, named after a character in the Lion King, for three years.

He said the yacht, which had grounded on three occasions in the past three years, had an undetected fault with bolts holding the three tonne keel to the hull which then failed causing it to fall off in bad weather during the voyage.

Mr Lickley said the yacht was not appropriately coded - licensed for the voyage - and Innes had chosen an "unsafe" northern route" because it was shorter and enabled the yacht to return back to the UK in time for booked charters of the vessel.

He said that Innes had a "duty of care" to the four men and "not to save money at every turn" and not to put "profit over compliance" with the yacht's coding, or commercial certificate, with the Yacht Designers and Surveyors Association (YDSA).

Mr Lickley said: "The yacht was therefore unsound, broken and unsafe before the four men left Antigua. The yacht had been neglected, not maintained and importantly, because the yacht was used commercially by Mr Innes and his company, not inspected as required."

The trial also heard that when Innes received an email from the skipper, Mr Bridge, headed as "urgent" he carried on drinking in a pub before only later alerting the Coastguard.

Innes told the court that any fault with the keel had lain hidden and would not necessarily have been found by an inspector and that he believed the yacht had not required the coding because he did not consider the journey to be a commercial voyage.

He also denied he had cut costs or tried to save time by sending the yacht back to the UK via the northern route.

Judge sums up Cheeki Rafiki manslaughter trial

A judge in the trial of a company boss charged with the manslaughter of four sailors has been summing up today.

James Male, Andrew Bridge, Stevie Warren and Paul Goslin all lost their lives when the Cheeki Rafiki overturned in the North Atlantic in May 2014.

It was 700 miles off Nova Scotia and on its way back to Southampton from Antigua when the incident happened.

Douglas Innes, from Southampton, denies four counts of manslaughter by gross negligence.

As Richard Jones reports.

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Remembering missing sailors of the Cheeki Rafiki

Friends of the skipper of the lost yacht Cheeki Rafiki are to set sail in his memory later this summer to raise money for the RNLI.

Andrew Bridge from Farnham and James Male from Romsey were among four sailors who disappeared when the Southampton based vessel capsized in the Atlantic.

Kate Dawson, Nicky Evans and Roger Swift with Aaron Gent from the RNLI Credit: ITV Meridian

Sailors Nicky Evans, Roger Swift and Kate Dawson, friends with the 21-year-old Cheeki Rafiki skipper, came up with the idea to raise money and sail in his memory.

Within 24 hours of the donation page opening, £20,000 was raised for the RNLI.

Skipper Andrew Bridge, 21, from Farnham Credit: Stormforce
Crew member James Male, 23, from Southampton Credit: Stormforce

They will take part in the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race in August.

Fundraising appeal in memory of yachtsmen lost at sea

Cheeki Rafiki Credit: ITV news

Thousands of pounds has been raised in memory of four yachtsman, who were lost at sea last month. Skipper Andrew Bridge from Farnham and James Male, from Romsey, Paul Goslin and Steve Warren were on board the Cheeki Rafiki when it overturned in the Atlantic.

They were sailing back to the UK from Antigua. Fellow yachtsmen are raising money for the RNLI and have surpassed their target of five-thousand pounds.

Family saddened as hope fades for missing crew

The hopes of finding the missing sailors is fading after the life raft was found on the boat Credit: Just Giving

Families of one of the missing British sailors, including two men from the South, have said they are 'shocked and deeply saddened'.

Hope is fading for finding the four men after the life raft for the yacht was found on board the capsized Cheeki Rafiki.

Underwater images taken by a US Navy swimmer found the raft stowed in place, indicating it had not been deployed in an emergency.

The upturned yacht was discovered in the Atlantic Ocean, about 1,000 miles east of Cape Cod in Massachusetts.

Coast guard officials decided to call off the search for the men - including experienced captain Andrew Bridge, 22, from Farnham, Surrey, and crew member James Male, 23, from Southampton.

Also missing are Steve Warren, 52, from Bridgwater, Somerset, and Paul Goslin, 56, from West Camel, Somerset - unless there was new information or sightings which suggested they would still be alive.

The family of Andrew Bridge from Surrey said: "Andrew will be dearly missed by everyone who knew him. Our thoughts and condolences go out to the families of the rest of the crew on the CheekiRafiki."

"We would like to thank everyone who's helped in the search for Andrew, including the US Coast Guard, the Canadian Coast Guard, the RAF, merchant vessels, the yachting community and the British and American Governments."

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Hope fades for missing crew of Cheeki Rafiki

Hopes of finding the missing crew of Southampton based Cheeki Rafiki have all but faded after the yacht's life raft was found on board the capsized vessel.

The US Coast Guard has called off its search for the four sailors - including Andrew Bridge from Farnham and James Male from Romsey. Richard Jones spoke to sea survival instructor James Brooke and Tony Bullimore who was rescued from his upturned yacht in 1997 after several days.

Prime Minister's thoughts with families of sailors

David Cameron said his thoughts were with the families of Andrew Bridge, James Male, Steve Warren and Paul Goslin Credit: Press Association Images

Hopes of finding the missing British crew of the Cheeki Rafiki have all but faded after the yacht's life raft was found on board the capsized vessel. The US Coast Guard called off its search at midnight (3am GMT), and an RAF Hercules plane due to hunt for the four sailors will not go out today.

Underwater imagery taken by a swimmer from a US Navy warship showed the raft clearly stowed in place, indicating it had not been deployed in an emergency. Prime Minister David Cameron said his 'thoughts are with the families and friends of the crew'.

The upturned yacht was discovered in the Atlantic Ocean yesterday, about 1,000 miles (1,609km) east of Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Its cabin was completely flooded and its windows were shattered. There was no sign of survivors.

Keel missing from the hull of Cheeki Rafiki

Photo taken by US Navy shows the keel missing from the bottom of the boat Credit: PA Wire/US Navy

The surface rescue swimmer also knocked on the hull and reached below the waterline, but with no results. Navy crews saw that the Cheeki Rafiki's keel was broken off, causing a breach in the hull.

Official British efforts to find the missing men have now also been cancelled.

A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: "The UK C130 was due to search for one more day for the life raft of the Cheeki Rafiki.

"In light of the US Coast Guard's decision to suspend their search for the crew following photographic confirmation that the life raft is in the hull of the boat, the C130 will now return to the UK."

Foreign Office Minister Hugh Robertson said: "I am sad to confirm that the search for the Cheeki Rafiki has now been suspended. My sincere condolences go out to the families of James Male, Andrew Bridge, Steve Warren and Paul Goslin at this very difficult and distressing time.

"The UK Government is grateful to the US Coast Guard and the Canadian search and rescue services for their efforts to locate the men. Their dedication has been unwavering, and they have done everything they could during the course of the search."

A Foreign Office statement on behalf of Mr Warren's family said: "We are very sad that the US has now suspended the search for Stephen and his friends.

Captain Anthony Popiel, 1st US Coast Guard District chief of response, said: "It is with sincere compassion for the families of these four men that our thoughts and prayers are with them all during this difficult time.

"The US Coast Guard is always hopeful, and makes the utmost efforts to find and rescue those in peril. We have the greatest appreciation for the US Navy and US Air Force for working with us alongside the militaries of Canada and the United Kingdom during this massive search effort.

"It is only after our deepest consideration that we suspend our active search efforts."

Coastguard call off search for missing sailors

The US Coast Guard called off its search at 3am British time, and an RAF Hercules plane due to hunt for the four sailors will not go out today.

Underwater imagery taken by a swimmer from a US Navy warship showed the raft clearly stowed in place, indicating it had not been deployed in an emergency.

The upturned yacht was discovered in the Atlantic Ocean yesterday, about 1,000 miles (1,609km) east of Cape Cod in Massachusetts.

Its cabin was completely flooded and windows were shattered, and there was no sign of survivors. Coast guard officials decided to call off the search for the men,

experienced captain Andrew Bridge, 22, from Farnham, Surrey, and crew members James Male, 23, from Southampton, Steve Warren, 52, from Bridgwater, Somerset, and Paul Goslin, 56, from West Camel, Somerset - unless there was new information or sightings which suggested they would still be alive.

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