MAIB report into child falling overboard from passenger ferry SNOWDROP, River Mersey October 2013

The MAIB has published a report on the investigation of a child falling overboard from the passenger ferry SNOWDROP in October 2014.

Were it not for the unselfish action of the Chief Mate, and the brief buoyancy afforded by her padded jacket, this three year old girl would have perished. As it is, the Mate quickly succumbed to the effects of cold water and could not swim the short distance to the ladder unaided.

Small children and cold sea water do not mix well, and the MAIB has been gentle with this child's parent. Nevertheless, the positioning of seating allowing the child to lean over the rail and for gravity to do the rest, was an accident waiting to happen and seems to have been overlooked in multiple risk assessments. This should be applied to any yacht where children are carried and the same risk assessment should also apply to tenders.

Clearly, observation of yacht guests privacy prevents a constant watch being maintained by a swift-footed deckhand with a boathook - no matter how appealing as an idea - so care needs to be taken with identifying the risk areas and ensuring the risk is removed or brought to the attention of the guests who have responsibility for overseeing small children. Not easily done, and diplomacy needed, but the alternative is unthinkable.

As to the actions of the Mate. Would anyone not do the same? Nonetheless, his life was also at risk. Whilst the state of tide was kind, had this been different, the crew's deviation from the man overboard plan would have lost valuable time in informing the coastguard and - of more immediate importance, launching the rescue boat.

For those on board Watkins' managed boats, please ensure that all crewmembers are given an opportunity to read this and confirm so in your next HESS meeting minutes. I can be contacted at any time if anyone has any questions. We would welcome any feedback of course, and would be pleased to circulate any comments.