Capsize of open dory with the loss of 1 life

Location: Fountain Lake, Portsmouth, England.

Accident Investigation Report 6/2001

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

portsmouth-dory.pdf (1,833.70 kb)


On 16 September 1999 a school party travelled to Whale Island, Portsmouth, England to go sailing. Due to the conditions on arrival an alternative activity was organised for six of the pupils. With a teacher in charge the pupils donned lifejackets and boarded a school-owned dory with outboard engine.

Once underway, water began accumulating inside the boat through spray and from the activities of those on board. The freeboard was slowly decreasing and the dory began to roll. For a second time the outboard engine stalled and this time could not be restarted. Without power, four pupils were told to start paddling. About 75 metres from the pontoon, the dory capsized and pitched the occupants into the water. The casualties, buoyed by lifejackets and aided by the upturned hull, were quickly recovered by another vessel. When the rescue was complete one of the children was found to be missing. The youngster was found underneath the upturned dory and later died in hospital.

Safety Issues

  • uncontrolled movement of seawater in both the boat, and in the void beneath the floor, combined to make it so unstable that the vessel would capsize
  • seawater had entered the void through two small holes in the bows where a towing bolt had been fastened and was missing


Recommendations have been made to multiple parties to prevent similar accidents occurring in the future.

This report was published on 20 March 2001.

Published 23 January 2015