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2 August 2011, 13:19
The family of a 14-year-old Sea Cadet who died after falling 25ft from a training ship off the Hampshire coast, are to sue the voluntary youth organisation.
Jonathan Martin, from Kent, fell backwards from the rigging of TS Royalist in Stokes Bay, off Gosport, on May 2 last year.
The teenager struck the side of the ship as he fell before landing in the sea. He was quickly recovered by a lifeboat and taken by coastguard helicopter to Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham, but died due to the severity of his injuries.
Jonathan's family is taking legal action against the Marine Society & Sea Cadets on the grounds that safety procedures on board the ship were inadequate.
They are seeking compensation and want the organisation's health and safety guidelines to be improved.
A Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) report published earlier this year prompted investigators to call for a tightening of procedures due to concerns regarding the supervision of the cadets when aloft on the vessel's masts and rigging, and the suitability of the belt harnesses provided.
The report in March said that Jonathan fell after unclipping his harness as he and other cadets were stowing the sails while the vessel was at anchor in Stokes Bay.
This was contrary to his training and onboard procedures for work at that position.
The boy's father, Andy Martin, said today: "Jonathan loved being a Sea Cadet but we feel he was let down by a lack of safety precautions which led to this tragedy.
"We hope taking legal action will raise awareness of the need for health and safety guidelines for young people taking part in activities on vessels to be improved.
"The loss of Jonathan has been devastating to our family and we will never get over it.''
Trevor Sterling, partner at Russell Jones & Walker solicitors, who is representing the family, said: "If Jonathan had been involved in an activity at height on land, the organisers would be under obligation to follow strict health and safety laws, but these laws have exemptions for vessels.
"As such the Sea Cadets' safety provisions are currently self-regulated and it is clear from Jonathan's death that they are not adequate.
"The safety harness Jonathan was wearing was designed to prevent users getting to a height where they can fall rather than protect a user if they do fall. There was also a lack of adult supervision while Jonathan was working at height.
"We are pushing for the exemptions in health and safety laws and the system of self-regulation to be reviewed so that Sea Cadets are as protected as other young people taking part in activities at height on land.''
Jonathan was one of a number of Sea Cadets on board Royalist, which had been taking part in celebrations to mark the 150th anniversary of the movement just hours before.
The 2010 Sea Cadet Festival saw the youngsters put on displays and demonstrations at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth harbour while a marching band paraded through the marina.
During the celebrations, cadets climbed the rigging of TS Royalist for a formal salute and dressed the ship with flags and bunting.
The Marine Society & Sea Cadets said it was the first death the ship had experienced since it was commissioned in 1971.