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Sunday, September 24, 2023

Rowing Boat Owner Sentenced in the UK After Man Was Lost Overboard

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

September 13, 2023

The 10.8-meter ocean rowing boat Toby Wallace. (Photo: U.K. Marine Accident Investigation Branch)

The 10.8-meter ocean rowing boat Toby Wallace. (Photo: U.K. Marine Accident Investigation Branch)

The owner and skipper of a rowing vessel has received a 12-month prison sentence after a 21-year-old was lost overboard in the middle of the Atlantic.

In February 2016, Michael Johnson was swept overboard by a large wave in the North Atlantic Ocean, between the Canary Islands and Barbados, during a world record row attempt to cross the Atlantic Ocean in 32 days. The seven remaining crew members on board were unable to save Johnson.

Simon Chalk, owner of the rowing boat Toby Wallace, has pleaded guilty to failing to take all reasonable measures to ensure the safe operation of his vessel.

Following the lengthy and complex investigation conducted by the U.K. Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), Chalk was charged under the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 at Bristol Crown Court this week.

The court heard that there was hardly any training for the crew of eight who took on the record challenge, there was no requirement to complete sea survival training, and there was minimal time to get acquainted with the vessel. The crew had not had a safety briefing on the vessel about its equipment, including personal floatation devices and beacons, the court heard.

Johnson was not suitably tethered and was not wearing a lifejacket or personal locator beacon (PLB) at the time of the incident, according to a report by the U.K. Marine Accident Investigation Branch.

On Tuesday, Chalk was sentenced to 12 months in prison, suspended for 12 months, and was ordered to complete 150 hours of unpaid work and 10 Rehabilitation Activity Requirement days.

MCA Lead Investigator Jay Staff said, "At this time, the MCA is mindful of the family and friends of Michael Johnson, who have seen justice served in this tragic case.

"The MCA will continue in its work to ensure everyone going out on the water is appropriately protected and knows what to do in an emergency, to avoid incidents of this nature in the future."

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