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    Three dead from yacht Ouzo

    August 24, 2006

    Three bodies have now been recovered in the search for a yacht and its three crew in the English Channel.

    The third body was found by the coastguard at 1930 BST on Wednesday, one hour after a second body was found.  On Tuesday the body of James Meaby, 36, of Tooting, London, was found 10 miles off Nab Tower, near the Isle of Wight.

    A massive sea search of the area has failed to find their missing yacht Ouzo, which left Bembridge on the Isle of Wight on Sunday bound for Dartmouth.  Norman Smee, Coastguard Area Operations Manager, said: “We are continuing to work closely with the police on this incident and we cannot confirm at this time that the bodies found this evening belong to the missing yacht ‘Ouzo’.”

    Two friends – Rupert Saunders, 36, of Louisville Road, Tooting, and another man – were on board the yacht with Mr Meaby when it went missing.

    An RAF Nimrod aircraft, the minesweeper HMS Cattistock and coastguards searched an area from south of the Isle of Wight, where Mr Meaby’s body was found on Tuesday, to the French coast.

    Three land-based teams, the Yarmouth RNLI lifeboat and the police marine unit also searched the coastline between The Needles and Bembridge and both the Solent and Portland Coastguard helicopters took part in the operation.

    The two bodies, which have not yet been identified, were located five miles south of St Catherine’s Point on the Isle of Wight, and 10 miles west of where Mr Meaby’s body was recovered.

    The crew members were all thought to be experienced sailors and no Mayday or distress call was received from the Ouzo – a 27ft (8.2m), single-mast vessel.

    Coastguards said the boat may have been involved in a mid-channel collision.

    The bodies were taken by the Yarmouth lifeboat to Portsmouth and the search has now finished.

    Hampshire Police have launched an inquiry because no mayday distress signal was heard.

    Barry Handley, who runs a charter vessel out of Chichester Harbour, found Mr Meaby’s body during a fishing trip.  He said: “It [the body] was drifting on the flood tide.  “I would imagine, from the distance it had travelled, that it had probably come from the main shipping lanes in mid-channel.”

    More from the BBC

    UPDATE 21 September 2006
    A 61-year-old P&O employee has been arrested over the deaths of three sailors and the disappearance of their yacht in the English Channel.

    Ouzo had left Bembridge, Isle of Wight, for Dartmouth, Devon, on 20 August.

    The bodies of Jason Downer, 35, from Kent, Rupert Saunders, 36, and James Meaby, 36, both from London, were found in the sea two days later.

    The man, from Dover in Kent, worked on the P&O-owned Pride of Bilbao ferry and was arrested on Wednesday.

    More from the BBC

    UPDATE 12 April 2007

    The UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch has published its report into the loss of the yacht Ouzo. The report said: “After careful analysis of the facts, the MAIB is of the firm opinion that the yacht was Ouzo and that the Pride of Bilbao had collided with her, or passed so close that she had been swamped or capsized by the vessel’s wash.”

    The full MAIB report on Ouzo (pdf file)

    More from the BBC

    UPDATE 29 October 2007

    Three yachtsmen may have survived had a P&O car ferry officer not “ignored evidence” his ship may have sunk or swamped their boat, a court heard.

    Michael Hubble has denied manslaughter through gross negligence and engaging in conduct likely to cause death or serious injury to the three men.

    More from the BBC

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