The owner of Stormforce Coaching Ltd has been given a suspended prison sentence after being convicted of failing to safely operate and maintain a yacht on which four sailors were killed. Douglas Innes was charged after his 40ft sailboat, Cheeki Rafiki, lost its keel and capsized in the Atlantic in May 2014. The bodies of four sailors aboard the yacht were never recovered.
Innes was found guilty of failing to operate the yacht in a safe manner. He was given a 15-month jail term that was suspended for two years. His company, which has been put into liquidation, was fined £50,000. Innes had previously been cleared of four counts of manslaughter by gross negligence in a retrial.
The four men on board were traveling back to the UK when the vessel lost its keel and disappeared about 700 miles off the coast of Nova Scotia. During the sentencing, the judge blamed Innes’ “cost-cutting” on the keel falling off. "This was a small yacht about to cross the Atlantic alone having not been independently examined for over three years. Those circumstances give rise to a risk of death,” said Justice Nigel Teare. "The failure to have the yacht surveyed was a serious act of negligence."
Katy Ware, a director of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), told BBC.com that she had "personally pledged to the families" that rules would change as a result of this case. "There are a number of grey areas. It's really important that we make it clear to industry how they operate those vessels and make sure they are safe for everyone travelling on board,” she told the news service.
The sailboat was found on 17 May 2014 with its liferaft on board, but without the four men.