Sea cadet, 14, dies after plunge from training ship rigging.
AN INVESTIGATION is under way after a teenager died after he fell from the rigging of a ship while bringing in the sails.
The 14-year-old Sea Cadet, from Kent, was airlifted to hospital by coastguard helicopter following the accident in Stokes Bay, near Gosport, Hampshire, yesterday evening but was later pronounced dead.
He was one of a crew of Sea Cadets on board the training ship, TS 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 climbed 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.
He described the incident as an "extremely tragic accident" and said it was "appalling for all those involved".
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 a Mayday call from the ship at 8.30pm stating that a member 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 while a marching band paraded through the marina.
During the celebrations yesterday, 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 statement said: "The charity is deeply saddened to report that a tragic and fatal accident occurred on Sea Cadet training vessel TS Royalist on Sunday, May 2, 2010.
"Our thoughts are with the young cadet's family at this distressing and painful time.
"The charity is now 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."
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. The organisation is open to young people aged 12 to 18 but members must be at least 13' to go to sea.
Other cadets on the yardarms of the ship several hours before the incident Training Ship Royalist at Gosport, after a cadet fell overboard from the ship yesterday evening