Between 7 and 9 June 2016, the two occupants of the motor cruiser Love for Lydia died from carbon monoxide poisoning. The boat was moored alongside Wroxham Island, River Bure, Norfolk, and their bodies were found during the afternoon of 9 June in the boat’s forepeak cabin.
The MAIB investigation identified that:
• The source of the carbon monoxide was exhaust fumes from the boat’s eight-cylinder petrol engine, which contained high levels of the gas even when the engine was ‘idling’.
• The engine was probably being run to charge the boat’s 12v batteries and the occupants did not recognise the danger from the exhaust fumes.
• The carbon monoxide from the ‘wet’ exhaust at the stern of the boat spread under the canvas canopy on the aft deck and then into the forepeak cabin, where it quickly reached lethal concentrations.
• The boat’s habitable spaces were not adequately ventilated; the forepeak cabin’s deck hatch and port holes were shut.
• The boat’s occupants were not alerted to the danger because a carbon monoxide alarm was not fitted.
In January 2015, the MAIB made several recommendations in an attempt to improve carbon monoxide safety on board recreational craft following its investigation into the double fatality on board the motor cruiser Arniston on Windermere. It is disappointing that a recommendation intended to require new recreational craft to be fitted with a carbon monoxide alarm was not accepted and that the action that resulted from a recommendation aimed at providing a co-ordinated and focused awareness campaign was short-lived.
The Marine Accident Investigation Branch has investigated four accidents in four years where seven people have tragically died as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning on boats. Carbon monoxide is a silent killer and there are many sources of it on boats, including engines, cookers, heaters and even barbecues.
A number of organisations continue to raise the awareness of leisure boaters to the dangers of carbon monoxide, but more needs to be done. A recommendation has been made to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency intended to re-energise various industry bodies into agreeing a co-ordinated and concerted campaign. Recommendations have also been made to the Boat Safety Scheme and British Marine which are intended to realise the mandatory fitting of carbon monoxide alarms on board new recreational craft and on board existing recreational craft using inland waterways. Marine surveyors have their part to play too and IIMS urges its members to remind vessel owners of the importance of fitting a suitable alarm.
Read the report in full: MAIBInvReport9_2017