Sinking of dinghy Samphire of Wells with loss of 2 lives

Location: North Norfolk coast, England.

Accident Investigation Report 7/2000

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

samphire of wells.pdf (1,345.44 kb)


During the early afternoon of 16 December 1999, the partner of one of the occupants of the dinghy Samphire of Wells raised the alarm after becoming concerned when it hadn’t appeared. Two people had been on board and Samphire of Wells was overdue on a passage from Burnham Overy Staithe to Wells-next-the-Sea. A search and rescue operation was initiated and at 1850 the Wells RNLI all-weather lifeboat (ALB) found the body of one of the two men floating upright in a pool among shoal water to the west of the Wells harbour channel He was wearing a fully inflated lifejacket When eventually landed, he was seen by a doctor and declared dead on arrival. The second man was found dead 6 days later in the sea some 7 miles to the north of Cromer. He too was wearing a fully inflated lifejacket.

Safety Issues

There were no witnesses to the accident. Although one or two pieces of wreckage were found and were thought to have come from the missing dinghy, this could not be proved beyond doubt. Neither the dinghy, nor its remains, have ever been found. The precise cause of the loss cannot be determined with accuracy. The investigation concludes that the dinghy most probably foundered while making the short open sea passage between Burnham Overy harbour and the entrance to Wells harbour.


The report makes recommendations to improve the chances of survival for occupants of small boats who find themselves thrown into the water.

This report was published on 29 March 2000.

Published 23 January 2015