Bahraini Boat Disaster
UK victims of the Bahrain boat disaster are travelling to Bahrain for a Memorial Service on Sunday 30 March to mark the second anniversary of the sinking of the Dhow, the Al Dana, which led to the loss of 59 lives, including 12 Britons, when it capsized in the Gulf off the coast of Bahrain.
The memorial service is to be held at the St. Christopher’s Cathedral in Manama and families devastated by the tragedy are also hoping that the second anniversary will mark the Bahraini Government agreeing to make the generous compensation payments suggested by the Bahraini Prime Minister shortly after the tragedy occurred in 2006.
The victims and their lawyers have received messages of support from many sources including Prince Charles, The Duke of York, David Cameron and Prime Minister Gordon Brown who raised the matter with the King of Bahrain during an official visit in London on Thursday 20 March 2008. The Foreign Office has also taken an active role in trying to resolve the outstanding dispute.
Clive Garner, Head of Travel Litigation at Irwin Mitchell Solicitors represents all of the families of the British victims and expressed his bitter disappointment that many families remain without compensation almost 2 years after the event.
Mr Garner said: "We are acting for 8 widows who lost their husbands and 21 children who lost one, or in some cases both, of their parents in this tragic event. The emotional cost to all of our clients has been enormous; meanwhile the delay in resolving outstanding claims continues to cause significant hardship to a number of families, all of whom are now living in the UK."
"Many of the deceased were bread winners for their families, many with very young children. Without the incomes that they once generated, a number of these families are now reliant on social security benefits and all have been deprived of the financial security and other opportunities that they once had."
"While nothing will truly compensate for the appalling loss of life which has been suffered, the compensation which is being sought is to assist those who have suffered most and to help them start to rebuild their lives.
Stephanie Grady (32) from Saltburn by the Sea, Teesside, lost her husband Stephen in the tragedy and is now left to bring up their two young children on her own; they are Billy (4) and daughter Stevie (18 months) who she was pregnant with at the time of the incident.
Mrs Grady explained "My son Billy misses his daddy and speaks of him everyday, asking when his daddy will come back to play with him. Stevie was born after Stephen died and she will never enjoy the pleasure of her father's hugs."
"My husband wanted to ensure that we would all be well looked after and hoped that he was doing the best for his family. Through the constructions he worked on he also hoped to help the Bahraini people and the development of that country."
"However through no fault of Stephen's we have been left in severe financial hardship. I struggle every week to keep the roof over our heads and food on the table. I hope with all my heart that fair compensation will be paid to all the families affected by this disaster."
Mr Garner concluded: "We have repeatedly requested that the Bahraini authorities compensate our clients fully. Despite these requests to the Bahraini Government and the Bahraini Royal Family, no agreement has been reached. We are continuing with efforts to reach a negotiated solution and hope that this can be achieved very shortly to avoid the need for formal Court proceedings to be commenced and the inevitable anguish, delay and additional cost which will occur."
At the inquest into the Deaths of a number of the British victims, Her Majesty's Coroner Alison Thompson found that the Al Dana capsized due to a series of errors and omissions including a serious breakdown in the licensing and certification system in Bahrain.
The Al Dana was originally designed and used as a fishing boat. It was later converted to be a floating restaurant and this work included the addition of an extra deck on top of the boat. The extra height and dimensions of the additional deck made the Al Dana unstable.
Despite this, and other safety problems making the Al Dana unfit to sail, it was officially registered by the Bahraini authorities with the grant of a commercial registration certificate on 25th December 2005. This registration occurred without both a passenger safety certificate and an insurance certificate both of which were required.
The Al Dana then received its Tourism Licensing Certificate on 18th February 2006 and was inaugurated on 9th March 2006 by the Under Secretary of the Bahraini Ministry of Information. Marine Consultants reported a number of safety deficiencies in their report of 22nd February 2006 but despite the dangers, and despite the Captain being unqualified to sail, the Al Dana set sail on the evening of 30th March 2006 leading to it's capsize.