17th April 1995
French catamaran, St Malo, strikes rocks
An air and sea rescue swung into action when Saint-Malo, a French-owned catamaran, struck La Frouquie rock off Jersey with 307 passengers aboard. Travelling at around 37mph, her hull was pierced and some passengers jumped into the sea as she started to list, even before the life rafts had been launched. More than 60 were injured, 33 were taken to hospital, and one was rushed to intensive care after suffering a heart attack.
It appeared that the ferry had changed course to follow a calmer route around Corbiere as several passengers had already been suffering sickness on that Easter Monday day-trip to Sark. However, this brought them too close to the rocks. Just after 10am, the captain radioed a distress call and the Alexander Coutanche lifeboat swung into action, collecting 55 passengers. A Royal Navy Sea King helicopter winched passengers off the deck and flew some directly to hospital. It took 77 minutes to get everyone off the ship, with those who weren’t taken to the hospital processed in a make-shift clearing centre set up in the terminal at St Helier.
The catamaran was beached in St Aubin’s Bay to await repairs but was back in service by late summer. Although its French owners said they still had confidence in the captain, who The Guardian reported had only joined the company two weeks before, Jersey port authorities ruled that he would only be allowed to bring vessels into the harbour with a pilot onboard.
A Department of Transport report criticised the evacuation procedures and life jackets, which it said were cumbersome. It also said that some older passengers suffered hypothermia because there were no covers on the life rafts, leaving them exposed when on the water.
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