Fit a carbon monoxide detector: Warning issued after Port Hamble fatalities

Fatal carbon monoxide poisoning on sports cruiser Emma Louise at Port Hamble Marina

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has called for ‘further work’ into raising awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide, after the tragic death of two boaters in Port Hamble.

The MAIB has this week released the findings of its report into the deaths of two men aboard the sports cruiser Emma Louise, which was moored in Port Hamble Marina, on the UK’s south coast, in 2022.

On the morning of 12 January 2022, marina staff discovered the two men in the covered cockpit of the privately owned sports cruiser. The men — the boat’s owner and his brother-in-law — had travelled from their homes in Slough, England and prepared to spend two nights on board.

The two men left the boat’s petrol engine running during the previous evening, likely to maintain power to some of the boat’s systems. Exhaust gas had built up in the covered cockpit area during the evening, the report finds, causing them to pass out and die due to carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

The report identifies key safety issues, including that exhaust gas, containing CO, had likely been funnelled into the cockpit between the boat’s transom and an inflatable water skiing ringo suspended from it.

The cockpit was covered by a close-fitting canopy, and the exhaust gas accumulated as there was little ventilation to enable the CO to disperse. With no CO alarm fitted on board, the men were not alerted to the danger of CO poisoning before they succumbed.

CO alarms were made mandatory on boats operating in inland waters in 2019 under the Boat Safety Scheme. The MAIB report highlights that, at the time of the accident, CO detectors were not required to be fitted onboard recreational craft operating in UK coastal waters.

The MAIB report finds that further work by industry stakeholders to raise CO awareness among pleasure craft users is required to reduce the increasing number of fatalities caused by CO poisoning.

The MAIB has made no further safety recommendations, further to those already in place since the 2017 Love for Lydia investigation. Details of these recommendations are detailed in a safety flyer and video (view below) produced by MAIB.

“The accident onboard Emma Louise serves as another dreadful reminder of the danger posed by carbon monoxide and the speed at which damage to health and collapse can occur,” says Andrew Moll OBE, chief inspector of marine accidents. “With no CO detector fitted, the two men were unaware of the danger and were tragically overcome within minutes of starting the cruiser’s engine.

“CO is colourless, tasteless and odourless and difficult for people to detect. It is essential that CO alarms are fitted in areas where carbon monoxide can accumulate, such as the cabins and cockpits of motor cruisers. Never ignore the smell of exhaust fumes in any enclosed space. Boat users are once again reminded of the three simple but life-saving measures that will help you to stay CO safe: install and maintain equipment properly; fit CO alarms and test them regularly; and always ensure there is adequate ventilation in the cabin.”

In 2017, MIN reported on the MAIB’s investigation into a carbon monoxide poisoning aboard 7.75m motor cruiser Vasquez, which resulted in the death of the vessel’s owner.

Over the past 10 years, the MAIB has investigated five accidents involving CO poisoning on pleasure vessels that (including this one) resulted in the tragic loss of nine lives.

One response to “Fit a carbon monoxide detector: Warning issued after Port Hamble fatalities”

  1. Maffi Oxford says:

    Isn’t the CO Alarm a part of the BSS? If not why not!