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Sea Cadet, 14, dies in fall from training ship's rigging; Boy was taking part in 150th celebrations.

Byline: Jennifer Cockerell

A TEENAGER died after he fell from the rigging of a ship while bringing in the sails, accident investigators said yesterday. The 14-year-old Sea Cadet from Kent was airlifted to hospital by coastguard helicopter following the accident in Stokes Bay, near Gosport, Hampshire, on Sunday evening, but was later pronounced dead.

He was one of a crew of Sea Cadets on board the training ship Royalist which had taken part in celebrations to mark the 150th anniversary of the movement just hours before.

Marine Society & Sea Cadets chief executive Mike Cornish said the boy fell from around 20 to 30ft as he was climbing the ship's rigging.

He said he would have been wearing a safety harness, but the cadets did not wear life jackets when climbing the rigging in case they got tangled.

"At this particular juncture all we can say is that the captain took the Royalist out of the harbour at the end of the Sea Cadet Festival at Gunwharf Quays and took it to Stokes Bay, not very far away, for anchorage," he said.

"The cadets were ordered to furl and reef the sails which is standard operational procedure for the night and unfortunately the cadet fell while aloft."

Mr Cornish described the incident as an "extremely tragic accident" and said it was "appalling for all those involved".

"The cadets are fully trained and will only climb the rigging if comfortable with climbing," he added.

The ship returned to shore after the incident and the remaining youngsters disembarked to be reunited with their families. The 19 cadets and 10 staff set off on the training exercise on Friday and were meant to return a week later.

Solent Coastguard said it received aMayday call from the ship at 8.30pm stating that amember of the crew had fallen over the side while it was at anchor in Stokes Bay.

The Coastguard Rescue helicopter attended the scene along with the Gosport and Fareham Inshore Rescue Service.

Colin Griffiths, watch manager at Solent Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre, said: "The crew member fell overboard and was recovered by the sail training rib and transferred to the lifeboat; the casualty was then taken by rescue helicopter to the landing site for the Queen Alexandra Hospital."

The 2010 Sea Cadet Festival, which was held over the weekend, saw the youngsters put on displays and demonstrations at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth harbour.

During the celebrations cadets climbed the rigging of TS Royalist for a formal salute and dressed the ship with flags and bunting.

A statement released by the Marine Society & Sea Cadets said it was the first fatality the ship has experienced since it was commissioned in 1971.

"The charity is working with the Maritime Accident Investigation Branch to establish the full details of what happened and offering every assistance to the local authorities and police," it said.

The ship is the Sea Cadets' flagship training vessel and has taken 30,000 cadets to sea over the past 39 years, with the capacity to take up to 24 at a time.

It has a permanent crew of six plus up to three additional staff.


INVESTIGATION: Police officers onboard TS Royalist in Gosport where the Sea Cadet fell to his death
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:May 4, 2010
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