Capsize of dinghy with loss of 4 lives

Location: Sound of Iona, Scotland.

Accident Investigation Report

Read our marine accident investigation report, which includes what happened, actions taken, and recommendations:

the sound of iona.pdf (1,092.45 kb)


On 13 December 1998 five men were crossing the Sound of Iona, on the west coast of Scotland, in a small dinghy with outboard engine. The dinghy pitched into a wave, capsized and threw all five occupants into the sea. None were wearing lifejackets so clung to floating objects or the upturned boat. One man, separated from the others, swam to shore and raised the alarm. The other four men died.

Safety issues

The accident was caused by the failure of the well laden dinghy to rise to an oncoming wave that nobody onboard had seen in the dark. Sufficient water was shipped to destroy all residual buoyancy and the capsize that followed was inevitable. The lack of lifejackets denied four young men an opportunity to survive. No accident is the result of a single action and this report comments on the chain of events that contributed to this tragic event.


The report makes a single recommendation to the Royal National Lifeboat Institute to examine the feasibility of establishing an inshore lifeboat station on the Ross of Mull to cover accidents in the Sound of Iona and adjacent waters. This recommendation is made as a result of a number of drowning accidents in the area in recent years. The report also very strongly advises anyone crossing the Sound of Iona in an open boat to wear a lifejacket.

The report was published on 12 March 1999.

Published 23 January 2015