No boat involved in deaths near Bournemouth pier

Bournemouth pier

Investigators have confirmed that no boat was involved in the death of two children who drowned at a popular British beach.

Joe Abbess, 17, from Southampton, and 12-year-old Sunnah Khan, from Buckinghamshire, were both pulled from the sea at Bournemouth beach on 31 May 2023. They later died in hospital.

Eight other children had to be rescued after getting into difficulties off the beach in Dorset, which was filled with half-term holidaymakers and locals.

A man in his 40s, who was ‘on the water’ at the time of the incident, was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter shortly after the incident. Police had searched and impounded a pleasure boat — widely reported as cruise boat Dorset Belle — as part of their investigations. Police also suspended boat operations at the beach ‘as a precaution’.

The Dorset Belle has now been sold by former owner Island Cruises, according to a recent post on a Facebook group dedicated to returning the Dorest Belle back to operations.

A statement posted on Facebook on 27 June 2023 reads: “Unfortunately, due to the circumstances currently surrounding the Dorset Belle, the only option available to Island Cruises is to sell her to avoid liquidation of the company, the bills have been mounting up and need to be paid, the lack of money due to the vessel not operating has been a major factor in this heartbreaking decision.”

It goes on to say: “We have owned her for almost five years, made it through Covid and the recession but the last few weeks have been too much financially and mentally with lots of sleepless nights. I have searched for a solution to keep her operating from Bournemouth but have drawn a blank. She was handed over to her new owners this afternoon, she will be deeply missed by us all. On a positive note, her new owners are already spending time on her to get her ready for the remainder of the summer, we all wish them the very best for the future.”

Today (28 June 2023), the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) confirmed it has decided not to carry out a full inquiry into the incident following a ‘thorough preliminary assessment’.

It said in a statement: ‘Having conducted a thorough preliminary assessment of the circumstances of this tragic accident, the MAIB has decided that no formal investigation will be launched.

‘This was a truly tragic accident but our understanding of the circumstances is that it did not involve a vessel and therefore is not something the branch would investigate.’

Earlier this month, an inquest into the deaths of the two young people heard that they were part of a group of people thought to have been caught up in a riptide in the sea near the pier.

The inquest heard both young people died from drowning. Coroner Rachael Griffin has adjourned proceedings to a further hearing in September.

The man held on suspicion of manslaughter remains under investigation.

In a statement, Dorset Police said: ‘We are continuing to work with experts and partner agencies to understand the circumstances of the incident, and this will take time to establish.

‘We are doing all we can to support the families of those involved, and they are being kept updated by specially trained family liaison officers about our investigation.’

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