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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.

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US Coastguard say a naval ship has found the hull of the missing Southampton yacht, Cheeki Rafiki

The US Coastguard says a US naval ship searching in the Atlantic has found the hull of the Southampton yacht, Cheeki Rafiki. They located the boat a week after the vessel and her four-man crew went missing on a voyage back from the Caribbean.

A Navy diver has confirmed the name of the yacht and has banged on the hull to see if anyone is inside. The cabin of the boat appeared to be flooded. They have not found the yacht's life raft.

Foreign office meeting for relatives of missing sailors

Relatives of four missing sailors have been meeting at the Foreign Office to discuss the search for their loved ones.

The crew of the Cheeki Rafiki raised the alarm that they were in trouble last Thursday and haven't been seen since.

The US Coastguard has said it may call off the search if it does not find anything by 5am tomorrow morning.

  1. West Country

Sister of missing sailor disappointed search will end

The sister of one of the sailors missing in the Atlantic says she's disappointed the search for the crew will end tomorrow morning. Steve Warren and Paul Goslin from Somerset were on board the Cheeki Rafiki when contact was lost a week ago.

Today the US Coastguard announced if no new leads were found before then, the search will end for the final time. Kay Coombes is the sister of Steve Warren ...

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Families of missing sailors 'still holding out hope'

The Foreign Office has released this statement on behalf of the families of the missing sailors:

The families of James Male, Andrew Bridge, Paul Goslin and Steve Warren still hold out much hope that their loved ones will be found soon. They have received so much support from the public and the yachting community, hearing endless stories of people that have survived many weeks and months in different circumstances at sea and have drawn much strength from this. They were obviously saddened to hear that the US Coast Guard will be suspending the search. But, they were prepared for the fact that this would have to happen.

They are meeting with the Foreign Office later on today, to talk about UK involvement and any other avenues that can be explored. Having spent the week getting to know each other better, along with hearing the endless accounts of survivors, the families are reassured that their men would work as an efficient and cohesive team. This gives them additional hope that they will still be found, as the US Coast Guard have found no evidence to the contrary.

– Families of the missing sailors on behalf of the Foreign Office

Families still hoping that missing sailors will be found

The Foreign Office has issued the following statement over the missing crew of the Cheeki Rafiki.

"The families of James Male, Andrew Bridge, Paul Goslin and Steve Warren still hold out much hope that their loved ones will be found soon.

"They have received so much support from the public and the yachting community, hearing endless stories of people that have survived many weeks and months in different circumstances at sea and have drawn much strength from this.

"They were obviously saddened to hear that the US Coast Guard will be suspending the search. But, they were prepared for the fact that this would have to happen.

"They are meeting with the Foreign Office later on today, to talk about UK involvement and any other avenues that can be explored."

  1. West Country

Last picture emerges of sailors

The last picture of the four missing British sailors has emerged - showing them just hours before they set off for home. 52 year old Steve Warren and 56 year old Paul Goslin from Somerset are seen leaving an awards ceremony at Antigua Sailing Week. Just hours later they went missing.

Last picture emerges of sailors Credit: South West News
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