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Trial begins in Cheeki Rafiki deaths

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Trial began yesterday for the director of a U.K.-based yacht management company accused of negligence in the deaths of the S/Y Cheeki Rafiki sailing crew in May 2104, according to British news reports. Douglas Innes, 41, is facing four counts of gross negligence manslaughter in Winchester Crown Court.

Skipper Andrew Bridge, 22, and crew James Male, 23, Steve Warren, 52, and Paul Goslin, 56, died when the Cheeki Rafiki lost its keel 720nm east-southeast of Nova Scotia. Their bodies have never been found. The 40-foot (12m) Beneteau, which was managed by  Stormforce Coaching Limited, had been returning to Southampton from Antigua Sailing Week.

Innes has pleaded not guilty to the four counts of gross negligence manslaughter, as well as an additional charge of failing to operate the vessel in a safe manner and a sixth charge on behalf of Stormforce Coaching Limited of failing to ensure the vessel was operated in a safe manner in accordance with Section 100 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995.

The UK’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch, which investigated the incident, reported that the keel had broken away from the hull and that photos showed the after keel bolt of the four was rusty, and could have been fractured.

In July 2016, surveyor Capt. E.S. Geary wrote an article in The Triton predicting that charges would be filed as, in his estimation, the incident was no accident.

To read more about the accident and charges, see these stories:

The Triton’s report on the accident and charges filed.

The BBC’s report on the Innes’ not-guilty pleas.

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