Dorset Police have impounded a sightseeing boat at the centre of an investigation into the death of a 12-year-old girl and 17-year-old boy who were pulled from the sea in Bournemouth. The incident occurred on Wednesday and left eight others in need of medical treatment. On Friday, the boat remained anchored at Cobb’s Quay in Poole Harbour, guarded by a police van, as officials continued investigations into the vessel and its possible role in the incident.
A man in his 40s was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter, having been on the water during the incident. He has since been released under investigation while police inquiries continue. The Dorset Belle had visited Bournemouth Pier just minutes before the first 999 calls were made, and then returned afterwards.
Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council (BCP) has stated that it does not license the boat in question. According to their website, anyone wishing to operate a pleasure boat or vessel in Poole or Christchurch Harbour for the purpose of letting it out to members of the public or carrying passengers for hire must obtain a license. However, the council does not issue licenses for vessels of this nature to operate in open water. A council spokesperson said that the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) is responsible for issuing licenses for vessels of this size and capacity.
Tobias Ellwood, Conservative MP for Bournemouth East, has called for the police to provide more information to avoid “wild speculation.” He also emphasized the need for a review of safety measures and protocols to ensure that such incidents don’t happen in the future.
The Dorset Belle’s website states that it is a purpose-built passenger boat designed to operate locally and can handle challenging swell conditions encountered at local piers. From April to October, BCP sets out yellow marker buoys 200m from the low water mark to indicate that watercraft must not exceed six knots, endanger other beach users, or run ashore or launch from the beach. Councillor Vicky Slade has said that there is no evidence to suggest that any of these rules were breached.
Dorset Police are currently working with the Marine Accident Investigation Branch and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to investigate the incident further.