The mate of the passenger vessel Hurlingham appeared in court on the charge of manslaughter by gross negligence after a passenger fell between the vessel and the pier at Westminster Pier in 2008.
On the night of the 17th of August 2008, the Class V passenger vessel Hurlingham had been chartered for a party and was carrying 121 passengers on a party cruise on the River Thames.
Upon berthing at Westminster Pier after an the evenings cruise, as the passengers were disembarking from the vessel tragically a male passenger fell between the vessel and the pier.
The alarm was raised immediately to London Coastguard who dispatched search and rescue resources within minutes to the scene. Unfortunately, the man Jair Murillo disappeared under the surface of the water and his body was not located until five days later.
A subsequent investigation into this incident by the Metropolitan Police Service working closely with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency resulted in the skipper and the mate of the vessel being charged with manslaughter and a lesser charge under Section 58 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995. The skipper was also charged with perverting the course of justice.
At a previous hearing the mate pleaded guilty to the charge of manslaughter. On the 18th February, after an eight day trial heard at the Central Criminal Court, London, the skipper was found not guilty on the charge of manslaughter and not guilty for section 58 MSA 1995.
On the charge of perverting the course of justice he was sentenced to 9 months suspended for 2 years and is to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work.
The mate appeared in court and was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment, with half of his sentence to be served under licence.
In his summing up, the judge recognised that the victims mother had lost a son who had just graduated with a degree in Law from the University of Mexico, had earned himself a job in the Supreme Court of Mexico and was visiting England to better his English.
He also took account of the fact that, against advice, the mate had pleaded guilty to the charge of manslaughter.
Captain Rod Shaw, Nautical Surveyor, Maritime and Coastguard Agency said:
Passenger safety is the number one priority for all skippers and crews of every passenger vessel.
It is the responsibility of the personnel working a vessel to ensure that all passengers are safe embarking and disembarking and whilst they are on board.
This tragic incident highlights the necessity to ensure that the vessel is safely and properly secured to the berth.