Tragedy occured on the penultimate day of the Cannes Yachting Festival

A journalist was killed after being run over by a RIB during press trials off Cannes on 12 September, the penultimate day of the Cannes Yachting Festival. It is thought that the Serbian woman was struck and killed by the propeller of the wayward powerboat after jumping or being thrown overboard.

According to the French newspaper 20 Minutes: ‘Three people, two [of them] journalists of a Serbian newspaper specialising in boating and the Italian owner of the boat, who was driving, were participating in a demonstration when the captain, for reasons still undetermined, was ejected.

‘One of two journalists, a man, was also ejected before the young woman, in circumstances not yet established, was ejected from the boat then caught up and killed instantly by the propeller.’

Local and maritime police are handling the investigation. Early reports suggest that a kill cord was not being worn at the time of the incident. If true, it highlights the dangers of not using a simple device that is fitted as standard to virtually all modern outboard engines.

This terrible incident would seem to echo the tragic incident that occurred in Padstow, Cornwall in May 2013, when six family members were thrown from their 8m RIB, killing the father and his eight-year-old daughter.

Following the Padstow tragedy, the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) launched a campaign with the slogan: ‘THINK! Wear your kill cord.’

We spoke to RYA cruising manager Stuart Carruthers, who explained that the Recreational Craft Directive (RCD) does not require a kill cord to be fitted to powerboats. The RCD sets out the legal requirements boats have to meet before they are sold in the EU, “but it doesn’t say how,” Carruthers explained. “The ISO (International Organisation for Standardization) standards are the technical guidelines they [the RCD] have to meet.”

The only relevant RCD guidelines for outboard engines today is that they must have a means of preventing them starting in gear, and an emergency stopping device that can be linked to the helmsman. A kill cord does not legally have to be fitted to powerboats.

But an argument continues as to whether or not a kill cord is actually the right solution. Since the Padstow incident, different options have been looked at, from pressure sensors on the steering wheel to switches that cut the engine when the helmsman’s heartbeat goes out of range. “A kill cord is not without problems,” warns Carruthers, adding, “but we will definitely keep pushing for wearing kill cords, providing you understand and maintain them.”

Between 2005 and 2013 the Marine Accident Investigation Branch recorded seven fatalities caused by people being thrown from a boat while not wearing a kill cord and being run down by the same boat.

“The tragedy is that these accidents are preventable, with simple technology that is available,” said Carruthers.