MAIB safety bulletin published for the Love for Lydia carbon monoxide poisoning incident

Photograph of the Love for Lydia alongside a marina after the accident showing the canopy as found
Photograph of the Love for Lydia alongside a marina after the accident showing the canopy as found

The MAIB has published a safety bulletin after the carbon monoxide poisoning on board the Doral 250 SE motor cruiser Love for Lydia at Wroxham on the Norfolk Broads between 6 and 9 June 2016 resulted in 2 fatalities.

The safety bulletin highlights the dangers of carbon monoxide on boats and calls for people to fit carbon monoxide alarms, similar to those used in caravans and homes.

MAIB Chief Inspector Steve Clinch said:

“Carbon monoxide alarms are commonplace in our homes and in caravans, but the tragic deaths of a couple and their dog on Love for Lydia are a reminder of the dangers of carbon monoxide on boats.”

“This is the third double fatality due to carbon monoxide poisoning that we have investigated in around three years.”

“There are many sources of carbon monoxide on boats including engines, generators, solid fuel burners and cookers. Canopies on deck can allow poisonous gases to build up, quickly reaching fatal levels. Ventilation is essential.”

“Carbon monoxide is a silent killer with symptoms similar to colds and flu. If carbon monoxide is suspected, it is important to stop the source, get to fresh air and seek medical attention. A carbon monoxide alarm could save your life.”

MAIB has produced a short video about carbon monoxide poisoning:

Initial findings

The motor cruiser’s 5.7 litre petrol-driven inboard engine had been left running at 3000rpm while it was moored alongside, probably to charge the batteries. A slight wind blowing from the stern caused exhaust gas emitting from below the aft transom to enter the canopy covering the aft deck from where it spread down into the accommodation area forward.

During in-situ tests with the engine running the concentration of carbon monoxide from the wet exhaust, reached high levels in the accommodation in less than 3 minutes. The
accommodation area was not ventilated and the couple and their dog were overcome. No carbon monoxide alarms were fitted.

Safety lessons

1. Carbon monoxide is a by-product of combustion appliances fuelled by oils, solid fuel or gas. It has no smell, no taste, is colourless and is extremely difficult for human senses to detect. Therefore, it is essential that carbon monoxide alarms are fitted in areas where carbon monoxide could accumulate and pose a risk to health (such as the accommodation areas of motor cruisers). When selecting a carbon monoxide alarm, preference should be given to those marked as meeting safety standard EN 50291-2:2010, which are intended for use in a marine environment. It is essential to fit alarms following the manufacturer’s guidance, to test them routinely using the test button and not to ignore them.
2. The use of canopies can potentially increase the risk of poisoning, even when a boat is making way. Although external engine exhaust outlets discharge exhaust fumes into the open, the wind, aerodynamic effects and the proximity of nearby structures frequently result in the fumes entering the boat. Ensure that all spaces, including those under a canopy or an awning are always well ventilated. Never ignore the smell of exhaust fumes in any enclosed space.
3. Carbon monoxide is a silent killer. Its symptoms can be similar to colds, flu or hangovers; headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, tiredness, confusion, stomach pain and shortness of breath are warning signs of its presence. If carbon monoxide poisoning is suspected, stop the source, get to the open air and seek medical attention.

Download the safety bulletin: MAIBSafetyBulletin2-2016

One of the presentations at the IIMS Small Craft Working Group ‘Super Training’ day on 24 October 2016 will be on the subject of carbon monoxide poisoning. Watch for further details.

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