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Fife company fined £12k for powerboat stunt which left artist partially blind

Jane Francis/the Isle of May boat crash.
Jane Francis/the Isle of May boat crash.

A boat trip company has been fined £12,000 after a crash between two powerboats near the Isle of May which left a tourist with life-changing injuries.

Artist Jane Francis, 45, was partially blinded after being badly crushed in front of her children as the skippers bungled a stunt turn and rammed into each other.

Isle of May Boat Trips Ltd was fined at Dundee Sheriff Court on Wednesday after it admitted responsibility for the crash, which happened when two skippers were carrying out a “synchronised power turn” move.

Sheriff Alastair Carmichael said: “Jane Francis was seriously injured. Her injuries included several broken bones and a punctured lung.

“She sustained damage to her diaphragm that required surgery in 2018. The crushing injuries that she sustained caused severe damage to her eyesight which has been permanently impaired.”

He said the company had failed to make a suitable risk assessment, failed to provide passengers with a suitable pre-departure briefing, and failed to ensure the power turn had been properly planned.

An MAIB report previously provided a detailed account of what happened.

Mrs Francis, 45, said: “My eyes suffered damage during a thoracic crush injury and I have what is called Purtscher’s Retinopathy.

“This causes sight loss and damage to areas of the retina which see colour and surface detail. I have what I approximate to be about 40% sight loss.

“I have no sight in the central vision of my right eye. The remaining areas across both eyes have patches of missing sight.”

The court heard how she suffered catastrophic injuries during the crash when the two skippers collided while they were showing off to passengers on a cruise ship.

Mrs Francis was injured when the two Osprey rigid inflatable 12-person vessels ran into each other during a pleasure trip to view the wildlife on the Isle of May.

The court was told that the power turn was carried out to give the unsuspecting passengers an “exhilarating” experience during the trip to view the birds on the island.

However, when the boats completed their arc at speed they came back together closer than planned and one of the skippers swerved in the wrong direction.

Anstruther lifeboat coxswain Roy Giles, a director of the company, correctly turned his vessel in a starboard direction in accordance with maritime rules, but Simon Chapman turned his board in a port direction and ran into the company’s sister vessel, injuring Mrs Francis, who was on a day out with her husband.

The Cellardyke-based company admitted being in breach of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 and being responsible for Mrs Francis’s injury and impairment.

It also admitted that on July 19 2016 it failed to take all reasonable steps to ensure the trip was carried out safely and failed to properly plan the power turn.

Counsel for the company, Gavin Anderson, said the company no longer allowed skippers to do power turns and had taken other steps to improve on-board safety.

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