Seafarer's union suggests more people die in lifeboat drills than are saved by lifeboats

Five crew were killed and three injured when a lifeboat fell from a cruise ship during an emergency drill in the Canary Islands.

The Thomson Cruises staff were lowering a lifeboat with five crew inside down the water as part of a safety exercise. According to Spanish media, a winch broke or got loose and the lifeboat fell 20m into the sea. The craft capsized, trapping the five crew under water. Four crew were pronounced dead at the scene, while the fifth died a short time later.  

A spokesman for Nautilus International, a trade union for seafarers, said this is a problem they see often.

“There’s been research which suggests that more people are dying in lifeboat drills than are being saved by lifeboats. It’s that serious,” Andrew Linington said.

“The death toll has been such that we advise our members: if you’re doing a drill, the drill is about raising and lowering the lifeboats. It shouldn’t be about people actually getting into them.”

One passenger told the Daily Mail he watched the ‘shambolic’ drill from the deck. “The lifeboat was coming half way down, then lurching to a halt,” Terry Dobbins said. “They were bouncing in mid air. The winches were seizing up. It was really worrying.”

A spokesman for Thomson confirmed the incident: “We can also confirm that there have sadly been five crew fatalities and three crew members injured. One person has been discharged from hospital and we expect the other two people to released from hospital imminently. Our thoughts are with the families of those involved.

“We are working closely with the ship owners and managers, Louis Cruises, to determine exactly what has happened and provide assistance to those affected by the incident.

“We are also working closely with all relevant authorities and will be co-operating fully with their investigations.”

The MS Thomson Majesty was docked at Santa Cruz de la Palma at the time. No passengers were involved.

In 2010 two passengers died on board the same ship when 30ft waves crashed into the vessel. She was previously named Louis Majesty and became MS Thomson Majesty in 2012.