MAIB report reveals the catalogue of errors that lead to the death of a tugboat crewman who couldn't swim

A report by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch has revealed that a lifejacket could have saved the life of Darren Lacey, an engineer and deckhand who drowned after the tug he was working on capsized in the Thames last summer.

Lacey was working on board Chiefton, which was pulling a 60m crane barge along the Thames from St George Wharf in Vauxhall to Gravesend, Kent. Another tug, Steven B, was attached behind the barge and was pushing at the same time.

The leading tug tried to avoid a buoy but failed and collided with the barge. The boat capsized and sank near Greenwich pier in August last year.

Lacey, who couldn’t swim, was one of three crew without lifejackets who ended up in the water. Chiefton‘s skipper and mate were rescued and Lacey’s body was recovered three days later.

The report explains that while the crew had a wide experience of tug operations on the Thames, no one had experience of the specific push/pull configuration that the tugs followed that day.

“No one had been nominated to be in overall charge of the towing operation,” the report added.

The MAIB also said that the Port of London’s tow-specific risk assessment and passage plan focused on the bridge transit part of the journey to Gravesend and failed to consider the subsequent downriver tow.

The collision that caused the accident was “inevitable”, the report claims, because of “late” and “inappropriate action”, coupled with “Chiefton‘s insufficient reserve of power and short tow ropes”.

“The evidence indicates that none of the crew of Cheifton were wearing lifejackets at the time of the accident,” the report concludes. “Had the casualty done so, he might well have survived.”