Bournemouth pleasure boat seized by police returned to pier twice as tragedy unfolded

A boat seized by police in Bournemouth returned twice to the pier during the tragic incident that led to the death of two children on Wednesday, marine traffic data shows.

The 49-year-old sea-going passenger boat, Dorset Belle, was impounded by officers on Thursday and was the subject of further searches on Friday as it remained at the Cobb’s Quay, Poole Harbour, guarded by a police van.

It comes as Dorset police are continuing investigations into the vessel and any role it may have had in the incident that led to the deaths of a girl, 12, from High Wycombe and a boy, 17, from Southampton.

A man in his 40s who was “on the water” at the time was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter. He was released under investigation on Thursday.

In a new development, the website Marine Traffic indicated that the vessel had visited Bournemouth Pier, the scene of the incident, at 4pm, minutes before the first 999 calls were made, and returned again afterwards.

Dorset Police has declined to comment on any investigation into the Dorset Belle and refused to say what or if any vessel was involved.

Earlier this week the force said no physical contact was made between the swimmers and any vessel or jet-ski and those involved had not been jumping off the pier.

Map of Dorset Belle’s route on Wednesday

(The Independent/Datawrapper)

Meanwhile, the father of one of the survivors of the tragedy, Lauren Tate, 18, addressed some of the rumours surrounding the tragic incident and said it was a riptide that swept the 10 people out to sea.

He told MailOnline: “We’ve seen all the stuff about boats and jet skis but it wasn’t like that. She was swimming in the sea with her friends when the rip tide took them out.

“She was lucky to get pulled from the sea by the coastguard and one of her other friends was rescued by a paddleboarder.

“I know the boy who died was at college with her, but I don’t know anything about him. All she told me is that they all met up on the train and headed to Bournemouth beach for the day.”

Luke Owen, 35, who was on the vessel with his family when the deaths happened, said lifeguards had made announcements warning about riptides.

A group of people inspecting the cabin of the Dorset Belle cruise boat which has been impounded at Cobb’s Quay Marine in Poole, Dorset


Mr Owen, from Kingston, south-east London, told the Daily Mirror they had no idea about the incident until they returned to the pier after the tour.

He told the newspaper: “When we looked no one was on the beach and before we left everyone was on the beach. It was empty, everyone was just staring.

“I’m first thinking it was a shark attack, because I did hear there was a shark attack a few weeks back.”

He added that it was the boat operator who told him a person had been pulled from the water and that another was missing.

In other developments, Tobias Ellwood, Conservative MP for Bournemouth East, said that he believed the police should provide more information to avoid “wild speculation”.

RNLI lifeguards put up flags on the beach


He said: “There needs to be a review, the police are conducting their investigation, there needs to be a review of the circumstances to see whether any safety measures and protocols need to be upgraded to ensure this doesn’t happen in the future.

“I encourage Dorset Police to clarify the general circumstances of this tragic accident to avoid further wild speculation and uncertainty for parents who may be cautious about going to any part of the beach, unclear of exactly what happened in this terrible incident.”

The vessel’s website states that it was purpose-built as a passenger boat to operate locally and could “cope with the occasional challenging swell conditions encountered at local piers”.

Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council leader Councillor Vicky Slade said on Friday she would be discussing safety at the pier with local MP Conor Burns.

The beach was cleared to allow helicopters to land on Wednesday

(PA / Professor Dimitrios Buhalis)

The local authority’s website states that from April to October, yellow marker buoys are set out 200 metres from the low water mark to indicate that watercraft must not “go beyond six knots, annoy or endanger other beach users or run ashore or launch from the beach.”

The nearby Boscombe artificial reef has a speed limit all-year round.

Cllr Slade said: “There is no evidence to suggest any of those rules have been breached.

“We are confident with our partners that any lessons that need to be learned in the future will be learned.”

The council released a statement saying: “While the cause of last Wednesday’s tragic incident is still being investigated, safety is our priority and as a matter of course after any sort of incident, we work with our partners to review safety provision.

“We have increased the visibility of council seafront staff at Bournemouth Beach and the RNLI’s lifeguards will continue to be on patrol across the area.

“All coastal waters have inherent risks that change with tide and weather conditions, changes to the seabed etc.

“We work with other agencies to assess the risks and put safety measures in place, such as RNLI lifeguards, safety signage and restricting the use of boats close to shore. Lifeguards assess local conditions throughout the day and react accordingly.”

Dorset Police has said it is working with the Marine Accident Investigation Branch and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to investigate the incident.

Additional reporting by PA

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