HC Deb 30 March 1955 vol 539 cc350-1
19. Mr. Moyle

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he will institute an inquiry into the loss of life that occurred in the s.s. " Stratheden " during rescue operations on Sunday, 13th March, and report to the House.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

A statutory Inquiry into the cause of death of those who lost their lives has already been held and, with permission, I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT an account of the incident based on the proceedings at the Inquiry.

I am sure the House will join with me in expressing deepest sympathy with the relatives of those who have lost their lives in this tragic accident.

Mr. Moyle

I should like to associate myself with the sympathy expressed by the right hon. Gentleman to those who have been recently bereaved by this tragic incident, but in view of the widely publicised criticisms which have been levelled against the captain of the " Stratheden " and the amount of correspondence which I have received in connection with this matter, and of which the Minister is aware, does not he think that it is only right, in the interests of the captain and his crew, as well as the public, that this inquiry should be much bigger than a Departmental inquiry? Does not he agree that it should be a full and public inquiry, in order that those who have been adversely criticised may have the opportunity of stating their case, and the nation can judge the matter when the proceedings are published?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I do not know whether the hon. Member appreciates that the inquiry, which was held under Section 690 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, was held in public and was, in fact, very fully reported in the Press.

Following is the account:

When on passage through the Mediterranean on Sunday, 13th March, the s.s. " Stratheden " received an " S.O.S." message from the Greek trawler " Iason " at 11.20 a.m. Course was altered to the position given and the lifeboats prepared for rescue work. The engines of the four motor boats were run and proved satisfactory.

At 4.12 p.m. " Stratheden " reached " Iason," the position being about 95 miles east of the toe of Italy. The weather was a gale with a heavy sea and swell. Within a few minutes No. 16 (motor) boat was lowered and was on the way towards " Iason." The boat found it impossible to go alongside and the crew of " Iason " were picked up after jumping into the water. On the way back to " Stratheden " No. 16 boat was struck by a large wave, filled up. capsized and sank about 200 yards on " Stratheden's " port quarter. A most difficult rescue operation thus narrowly and most tragically missed successful achievement. Even so, four members of " Iason's " crew were saved.

No. 6 (motor) boat was launched but the engine failed to start. This boat, with its crew, had to be recovered before " Stratheden " could be brought round to windward of the men in the water to allow her starboard boats to be launched in the lee of the ship. As soon as this was done No. 1 (accident) boat and No. 5 (motor) boat were launched. No. 5 boat reached the men in the water about an hour after the accident and picked up seven men. No. 1 boat was unable to rescue any. After searching for an hour in heavy seas and rain the two boats returned to " Stratheden " in the gathering darkness. Eight members of No. 16 lifeboat's crew and 11 men from " Iason " were not recovered. " Stratheden " remained in the vicinity until 9.0 a.m. on the following day, when hope was abandoned and she resumed her voyage.

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