Suspended jail term for seaman who caused Suffolk yacht tragedy
Thursday, February 26, 2015
A seaman has received a suspended jail sentence after he admitted being responsible for a collision which led to the death of a Suffolk woman six miles off the Felixstowe coast.
Gerardus Chapel at Ipswich magistrate court
Gerardus Chapel, of Papendrecht, The Netherlands, was on the bridge of the dredger Shoreway when it collided with a yacht, causing the death of Bernie Ingram, of Butley, near Woodbridge.
At Ipswich Crown Court this afternoon, he was given a six month jail term, suspended for 18 months.
Previously, Ipswich magistrates heard the 57-year-old drowned as a result of the impact between the 98-metre long dredger and the nine-metre yacht belonging to her and her husband Peter.
Mrs Ingram was in an inflatable life jacket sunbathing on deck when a wave caused by the crash swept her into the galley, trapping her as the sailing boat sank.
Chapel pleaded guilty to failing to discharge his duties properly as the officer of the watch on the dredger.
Mark Watson, prosecuting, said the tragedy occurred on Sunday, June 8, at around 1.30pm.
Chapel was in charge of the Shoreway’s course when it collided with the Ingrams’ yacht Orca, with the couple and their two dogs aboard.
As a result of the crash the Orca was hulled and sank immediately.
The dredger had been on its way out to sea at the time.
Mr Watson said: “There came a stage where it changed course slightly from the deep water channel and proceeded south into an area which is known to be frequented by sailing yachts, especially at the weekend.”
The Orca, which had set sail from Levington, was returning after going out to sea.
Mr Ingram was at the helm and saw the Shoreway in the distance, the court heard.
It appeared to be in the deep water channel. Mr Ingram’s yacht was not bearing a course towards the deep water channel, but was parallel to it.
Magistrates were told he went below deck to go the toilet for no longer than a couple of minutes leaving his wife on deck at the rear of the yacht.
When Mr Ingram returned he saw the dredger alongside his yacht. There was a collision with Orca striking the starboard anchor of the Shoreway.
Mr Watson said: “The Orca was hulled pretty much amidships and began to take on water.”
Mr Ingram was trapped in the cabin which filled with water. He was able to escape after a desperate struggle, the court heard.
He assumed his wife had been swept into the sea as she was on deck.
However, there was a surge of water which dragged the doctor’s receptionist into the galley.
Her body was recovered from the wreck the following day.
Ian Lawrie QC, representing Chapel, said the case centred on an omission to do something and came down to human frailty.