Page last updated at 21:16 GMT, Monday, 5 November 2007

P&O captain 'would have stopped'

Pride of Bilbao
A yacht was seen from the 37,500-ton Pride of Bilbao ferry

A senior ferry captain has told a court he would have stopped to check on the welfare of a yacht crew if he had known his vessel had hit or swamped the boat.

Captain Alastair McFadyen gave evidence at the trial of Michael Hubble who was officer of the watch on P&O's Pride of Bilbao when it encountered a yacht.

The 25ft Ouzo disappeared off the Isle of Wight in August last year and three men, from London and Kent, drowned.

Mr Hubble, 62, of Kent, denies manslaughter through gross negligence.

He also denies engaging in conduct likely to cause death or serious injury.

Safety of life at sea is more important than schedules
Alastair McFadyen, captain

The trial at Winchester Crown Court has heard how Captain McFadyen had been in his cabin in the early hours of 21 August last year when the 37,500-tonne car ferry had a collision or near miss with a yacht.

Mr Hubble, of Capel-le-Ferne, Folkestone, had decided not to stop after he and a lookout saw lights, which he believed showed the yacht was safe.

James Meaby and Rupert Saunders, both 36 and from Tooting, south London, and Jason Downer, 35, from Kent, all drowned when their boat was lost.

Mr McFadyen said he could have been on the bridge within one minute if he had been told about the incident.

The three men who died - Jason Downer, Rupert Saunders and James Meaby
Left to right - Jason Downer, Rupert Saunders and James Meaby all died

The court has also heard that the yacht was not picked up on the ferry's radar and her lights were only seen at the last moment.

"I would want to make sure the yacht's crew was OK and the yacht was OK," Mr McFadyen said.

He said he would have stopped the ferry and turned back to check.

"Safety of life at sea is more important than schedules," he added.

"If lives are at risk you do what is necessary to save them."

Questioned by Richard Barraclough QC, for the defence, Mr McFadyen said he had considered Mr Hubble an excellent officer of the watch and during his period of familiarisation on the ferry all the comments about him had been very positive.

The trial continues.

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