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18 May 2017, 09:30
Marine accident investigators have issued new safety recommendations after a woman was seriously injured in a collision between two rigid inflatable boats (RIBs).
The 45-year-old mother-of-two suffered a punctured lung and permanent damage to her sight in both eyes following the incident on July 19 last year.
The holidaymaker was sitting on an inflatable tube in the RIB Osprey II and was crushed when it collided with the vessel Osprey in the Firth of Forth.
Both vessels were on their way from Anstruther Harbour to seabird haven the Isle of May when the collision happened at 12.52am.
The skipper of each RIB had increased speed and commenced a power turn away from each other with the intention of passing each other in the course of completing a round turn, the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) report found.
However, as the RIBs turned towards each other, it became apparent to both skippers they were in danger of colliding and although they both acted quickly to reduce the speed of their respective vessels, and so lessen the impact, they were unable to prevent the collision.
There were 12 passengers on Osprey - 11 adults and one child - and 11 passengers on Osprey II, seven adults and four children, one being the skipper's son.
Passenger spaces on Osprey II were normally limited to the eight spaces available on its four bench seats, however in good weather two additional spaces for the vessel were sold, with the extra passengers sitting in designated positions on its inflatable tubes.
At the moment, there are no regulations to prevent people on RIBs from sitting on the inflatable tubes but the MAIB said they are at increased risk in that position.
The report said: "Passengers not sitting on suitable inboard seating have an increased risk of falling overboard, are at significant risk of musculoskeletal injuries and are more exposed to serious injury in the event of a collision.''
The injured woman, who was on the vessel with her husband and two children aged eight and 12, was taken to hospital after the incident and was put into an induced coma, having suffered two broken collar bones, five broken ribs, a punctured lung and lacerations and bruising to her back and torso.
The internal injuries she sustained in the accident also resulted in permanent damage to her sight in both eyes.
The MAIB has recommended the Maritime and Coastguard Agency's (MCA) forthcoming recreational craft code include the stipulation the certified maximum number of passengers carried on commercially-operated passenger-carrying RIBs should be limited to the number of suitable seats designated for passengers.
Isle of May Boat Trips Ltd, which owns and operates the two vessels, has banned passengers and crew from sitting on the inflatable tubes of Osprey and Osprey II, and has limited passenger numbers to 12 and 8 respectively.
It has also issued an instruction that twin RIB operations are not to take place except in an emergency and has reviewed its risk assessments to ensure they incorporate all activities undertaken by Osprey and Osprey II.
Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents Steve Clinch said the MAIB has investigated several accidents in which people have been injured as a result of inappropriate seating on RIBs, and the faster the RIB, the greater the risk.
He said: "As a consequence, we have today recommended the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to include in its forthcoming recreational craft code that the certified maximum number of passengers carried on commercially-operated passenger-carrying RIBs should be limited to the number of suitable seats designated for passengers.
"We have also made a recommendation to the Royal Yachting Association and Passenger Boating Association aimed at improving the guidance available to the operators of commercial passenger carrying RIBs.''
An MCA spokeswoman said: "The Maritime & Coastguard Agency has received its copy of the MAIB report and is carefully considering its recommendations.''