Operators of pleasure cruiser vow never to return to Bournemouth Beach

Operators of 78ft pleasure cruiser the Dorset Belle which is at centre of police probe into Bournemouth beach drownings vow never to return to resort after the deaths of girl, 12, and boy, 17

The operators of the pleasure cruiser at the centre of the police investigation into the Bournemouth beach drownings have vowed never to return to the resort.

Island Cruises Ltd, which runs the Dorset Belle, has said it will permanently cease its operations from Bournemouth Pier following the May 31 tragedy.

A maritime safety expert has said there is no evidence to show the 78ft vessel was to blame for the deaths of Sunnah Khan, 12, and 17-year-old Joe Abbess.

Inquests into their deaths heard that they drowned after possibly being caught by a sudden riptide.

Eight other young people who were swimming in the sea had to be rescued in the incident.

Island Cruises Ltd, which runs the Dorset Belle (pictured), has said it will permanently cease its operations from Bournemouth Pier following the May 31 tragedy

A man in his 40s, who was described as ‘on the water’ at the time of the incident, was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter but was released under investigation.

The Dorset Belle, built in 1974, was impounded at the time and remains at Cobb’s Quay Marina in Poole and has been under police supervision.

There has been speculation the 78ft long vessel may have in some way contributed to the dangerous sea conditions.

All boat trips from the late 19th century pier have been halted by the local authority until further notice.

But a statement made on the Dorset Belle Facebook page said: ‘Our thoughts go out to the two children and their families who tragically lost their lives on Bournemouth beach on Wednesday 31st May.

‘Unfortunately, due to current circumstances, all operations from Bournemouth Pier have been permanently discontinued.

‘Island Cruises Ltd who own the vessel along with current operators who have recently been running the boat thank all for the support afforded to both companies.’

A maritime safety expert has come to the defence of the crew of the Dorset Belle and said there was no evidence a passenger boat was to blame for the deaths.

He said the most obvious explanation for what happened was a riptide, which are common at Bournemouth Pier due to its location.

The news comes after a maritime safety expert claimed there was no evidence to show the 78ft vessel was to blame for the deaths of Sunnah Khan, 12, (pictured) and 17-year-old Joe Abbess

The mother of Sunnah Khan appeared to back up the riptide theory in an interview earlier this week when she warned of the danger of them while swimming in the sea.

Stephanie Williams told Good Morning Britain that her daughter was chest deep in the water when she was overcome by waves and swept out to sea.

The maritime expert, who wished to remain anonymous, said: ‘It is known that riptides are common on any open stretch of water that faces the sea that has a prevailing wind coming on to a south facing beach and shifting sands.

‘Whenever you have a pier on a beach, it is inevitable there is going to be a lot of riptides.

‘Because a commercial vessel was in the vicinity of the incident, it is normal that it has been impounded while they investigate.

‘But the vessel would have been heavily regulated by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency with an experienced crew.

‘Its design means it has no underwater suction and doesn’t manoeuvre on jet propulsion so any theories about ‘jet wash’ causing the incident do not apply.

‘The vessel has a 360 degree viewing station for its master, is highly manoeuvrable and only operates in deeper water.

‘There is no evidence to prove negligence on behalf of the passenger vessel in question. The most logical explanation for what happened is a riptide.

‘They are unpredictable and can be hard to spot, happening after a period of calm waters.’

Mr Abbess, who died in the tragedy, was a trainee chef in Southampton 

He said BCP Council needs to consider allowing people to swim in the sea around the pier in the future.

He added: ‘Why is the designated swimming area so vast and close to the pier when it is well known that currents and rips are at large there and have been for so many years?

‘The council needs to look at the parameters of where the designated swimming zones are.’

Despite the tragic incident, people are continuing to swim in the water surrounding Bournemouth Pier.

Just last night, a lifeboat crew was called out to reports of swimmers ‘in difficulty’ in the water west of the pier.

By the time they arrived at the scene, they had made it back to the shore.

On June 6, two people were seen apparently struggling in the water to the east of the pier.

It prompted a huge air and sea operation involving beach lifeguards, an RNLI lifeboat, two coastguard crews, a coastguard helicopter, police officers and ambulance paramedics.

A search of the water swung into action to find the potential casualties.

The operation was called off when it emerged the two male swimmers had been able to make their own way back on to the beach

The Dorset Belle has hosted cruises from Bournemouth to destinations including Brownsea Island, Poole and Swanage. It occasionally travels as far as Southampton, Weymouth and the Isle of Wight.

Operations moved to Cardiff Bay in 2002, before returning to serve Bournemouth Pier in 2021.

BCP Council has suspended all boat operations from the pier ‘as a precaution’ while the investigation continues.

A spokesperson for the local authority said: ‘We are aware the investigation is complex and will consult with Dorset Police when the investigation is complete.’

A spokesperson for Dorset Police said the investigation into the drownings continues and there are no further updates.

Source: Read Full Article