Investigations are underway into the sightseeing boat at the heart of the inquiry surrounding the tragic deaths of a young girl and a teenager who were recovered from the sea in Bournemouth. The boat has been seized by Dorset Police, following the incident on Wednesday, when a 12-year-old girl from Buckinghamshire and a 17-year-old boy from Southampton lost their lives. Another eight individuals received treatment from paramedics.
As of Friday, the Dorset Belle remained at anchor at Cobb’s Quay, Poole Harbour, under the watch of a police van. Officials were seen onboard, examining the vessel and its potential involvement in the incident. A man in his 40s, who was present on the water at the time, was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter and subsequently released under investigation on Thursday as police inquiries proceed.
The Marine Traffic website indicates that the vessel had visited Bournemouth Pier, the location of the incident, at 4pm, just minutes before the initial 999 calls were made, and returned afterwards. Police have stated that there was no physical contact between the swimmers and any vessel or jet ski, and those involved had not been jumping off the pier.
A spokesman for Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council (BCP) clarified that they do not license the boat in question. The council’s website explains that anyone wishing to be in charge or navigate a pleasure boat/vessel, including those in Poole Harbour and Christchurch Harbour, for the purpose of hiring it out to the public or carrying passengers for hire, must obtain a licence from the council. A council spokeswoman stated that the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) is responsible for issuing licences to operate vessels of the Dorset Belle’s size and capacity.
Dorset Police have not commented on any investigation into the Dorset Belle and have not specified whether any vessel was involved.
Tobias Ellwood, Conservative MP for Bournemouth East, expressed his belief that Dorset Police should provide more information to prevent “wild speculation.” He added, “The police are conducting their investigation, there needs to be a review of the circumstances to see whether any safety measures and protocols need to be upgraded to ensure this doesn’t happen in the future.”
According to the vessel’s website, it was purpose-built as a passenger boat to operate locally and can “cope with the occasional challenging swell conditions encountered at local piers.” BCP’s website states that from April to October, yellow marker buoys are positioned 200m from the low water mark to indicate that watercraft must not “go beyond six knots, annoy or endanger other beach users or run ashore or launch from the beach.”
Councillor Vicky Slade commented, “There is no evidence to suggest any of those rules have been breached. We are confident with our partners that any lessons that need to be learned in the future will be learned.”
Dorset Police are working alongside the Marine Accident Investigation Branch and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to investigate the incident.
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