Gibraltar: Solis Marine’s Captain Richard Meikle gives expert evidence during second inquest into a fatal accident at sea

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Gibraltar: Solis Marine’s Captain Richard Meikle gives expert evidence during second inquest into a fatal accident at sea

Solis Marine partner and independent accident investigator Richard Meikle has presented evidence at an inquest involving the fatal collision between a

Royal Gibraltar Police vessel and a suspected drug trafficking vessel which resulted in two fatalities.

The Royal Gibraltar Police (RGP) appointed Captain Meikle to investigate the incident which involved the RGP vessel Sir John Chapple and a RHIB travelling in Spanish waters on March 8 2020.

During the inquest, Captain Meikle presented detailed technical evidence which drew on AIS data, charts and weather data, shoreside CCTV footage and Solis Marine’s 3D modelling to set out what happened between the two vessels.

The inquest heard that the RGP vessel had travelled at high speed to intercept a RHIB near the port of La Atunara in La Linea and beyond British waters in the early hours of the morning.

It was during a series of high-speed manoeuvres which impaired visibility that the police vessel was found to have collided with the RHIB, hitting it on the aft port side and passing over it into the sea heavily heeled on its starboard side.

Having examined all of the evidence and witness statements available to him, Captain Meikle told the inquest jury that there was no evidence to suggest the collision was intentional. However, Captain Meikle told the jury that by navigating so close to the RHIB, the RGB crew had put themselves and the RHIB occupants in danger.

Captain Meikle also examined the rules of engagement used by the RGP to patrol British Gibraltar Territorial Waters (BGTW). He told the court that pursuits beyond BGTW were historically permitted with the approval of the Guardia Civil, but that was not the case at the time of this incident.

Captain Meikle was questioned about the switching off of navigational aids by the crew of the Sir John Chapple which would have plotted their course and location. Captain Meikle said the navigational aids would not have directly assisted the RGP crew while chasing the RHIB at high speed and close quarters, but that this was poor navigational practice.

He was also questioned about the installation of a “log defender” metal band which was fixed to the bow of the Sir John Chapple. The device is commonly used in Canada and northwest USA to prevent logs passing beneath a vessel and damaging its structure.

Captain Meikle said he did not believe floating logs were a significant problem in Gibraltar, but the device would strengthen the hull and prevent damage from other marine debris; however, the opportunity to identify the safety risks of fitting log defenders had been missed by the RGP.

The jury at the Coroner’s inquest subsequently found that two of the Spanish occupants of the four crew RHIB were “unlawfully killed”.

In September, Captain Meikle was asked to give evidence during a separate inquest in Gibraltar in which a Spanish national died during a collision at sea with the Customs vessel HMC Searcher.

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