Briton charged in civil case after 58 people die in Bahrain Dhow Disaster

Bahrain dhow disaster charges

25.08.2006

The owner of an ill-fated dhow which capsized in Bahrain, killing 58 people, is bringing civil proceedings against one of the British survivors.

Simon Hill, 44, from Southampton, is accused of ordering the captain of the converted pleasure boat al Dana to set sail against his wishes. He was among scores of party-goers from engineering company Nass-Murray & Roberts on board to celebrate the completion of the first phase of the Bahrain World Trade Centre.

The 80ft traditional sailing vessel was carrying around 130 people when it toppled over in calm waters on March 30. Fifteen Britons on board died.

Shortly afterwards, Mr Hill gave an emotional press conference telling how he clung to the hull of the upturned boat as he fought for survival. He has now been barred from leaving Bahrain pending the civil proceedings which have been brought against him by the boat's owner Abdullah al-Kobaisi.

Mr al-Kobaisi and the boat's Indian captain Rajendrakumar Ramjibhai are themselves facing criminal charges, accused of "fatal neglect" and "sea transportation deficiency". Their case, which opened in June, was adjourned for the summer and is due to start again in mid-September.

Both criminal and civil proceedings into the incident will rely on the findings of an official 60-page report into the tragedy.

The inquiry was carried out by a technical investigation committee, upon the instruction of Bahrain's Attorney General.

Bahrain dhow lawyer comments

Clive Garner, a partner at Irwin Mitchell, is representing the families of 15 of the deceased and a number of survivors. He said the report accused a number of individuals and organisations of negligence.

They include the Commercial Registration Directorate, the Passenger Safety Inspector, the Ministry of Information, the company Island Tours who chartered the boat from Mr al-Kobaisi and Nass-Murray & Roberts who hired the boat from Island Tours.

The owner and the captain faced a number of criticisms. The report found there was inadequate manning on board, an absence of safety information and the main access doors of the boat were locked before sailing.
Although the report is not determinative, it will be highly influential in all proceedings.

Mr Garner said the families were still considering the evidence from the report before taking civil action.

Stephanie Grady, 31, who lost her 42-year-old husband Stephen, was left with their children Billy, two, and Stevie, who is only two months old. She said: "I lost my husband in the incident and many others lost loved ones in the tragedy.

"I - and other relatives - need to know how this incident could have happened and that justice will be done. "Lessons need to be learned so that nothing like this happens again."

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