Page last updated at 09:25 GMT, Tuesday, 9 June 2009 10:25 UK

Cruise death skipper 'distracted'

A man died after falling through a gap between a passenger boat on the River Thames and the pier because its skipper was "distracted", a report has said.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) report said Jair Murillo, 32, slipped and fell as passengers got off the boat "unsupervised" by staff.

The boat was "not adequately secured" and the skipper "was tidying up after a party" when Mr Murillo fell, it said.

Thames Cruises said it had since revised its instructions for staff.

His body was found five days after he fell at Westminster Pier last August.

The report said the Thames Cruises vessel's safety management system was "poor", emergency drills were ineffective, it had flawed risk assessments and inadequate procedures for mooring and passenger disembarkation.

Mr Murillo, who was originally from Mexico but was living in Southwark, had been working at a cocktail bar and restaurant in London.

He drowned after he hit his head as he slipped and fell into the river, the report said.

The MAIB said the Hurlingham passenger boat had drifted from the pier when the skipper left the wheelhouse unattended.

Passengers were left to disembark on that day "unsupervised", the report said.

'Fell into gap'

The boat's mate went to manoeuvre the vessel, in order to bring the stern back into the pier, which in turn then caused a gap to open up "at the point where passengers were disembarking".

"One passenger stepped forward and fell into the gap," the report said.

The boat was tied to the pier by a single mooring line which meant it "was not adequately secured".

The report added that the skipper "was distracted from his primary responsibilities of ensuring the safety of the vessel and passengers, by other duties concerning the running of the licensed bar and by tidying up after the party".

The report recommended that the wheelhouse should not be unmanned when the vessel is in gear and that crews must not be distracted by commercial activities.

It added that steps must be in place to ensure passengers are protected if the mooring line fails.

Since the incident Thames Cruises said it had revised instructions for staff on moorings, boarding and disembarkation.

The company said it had also installed additional lighting and was giving out announcements for staff and safety warnings for passengers onboard its cruises.

The MAIB also recommended that the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) should check vessels working at night.

Last month, a new code of practice for passenger boats was published by the Port of London Authority.

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