Felixstowe: Man who plunged 25 metres to his death on board container ship died accidentally, inquest rules

MV Tempano

MV Tempano - Credit: Archant

TOUGHER safety measures are today in place at the Port of Felixstowe after a man slipped in icy conditions and plunged 25 metres to his death on board a container ship, an inquest heard.

The MV Tempanos on which a crew member died after falling into a cargo hold while the vessel was ber

The MV Tempanos on which a crew member died after falling into a cargo hold while the vessel was berthed at the Port of Felixstowe in 2011. - Credit: Archant

The coroner’s court heard Hutchison Ports, which operates the port, has instructed staff to conduct safety meetings with the crews of container vessels arriving at the quayside, before unloading any cargo.

The inquest into the death of 30-year-old able seaman Jose Gonzalez-Ortega held at Ip-City in Bath Street, Ipswich, yesterday recorded a verdict of accidental death.

The court heard the new measures were introduced following recommendations in a report by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) published in August last year.

The father-of-two sustained multiple injuries after he fell through an open hatch into cargo hold three of the container ship MV Tempanos shortly before 7am on December 17 last year, the court heard.

An investigation concluded it was likely that the Chilean national Mr Gonzalez-Ortega, who was described as conscientious and well-respected, slipped in icy conditions.

The inquest heard the investigation found that it was occasional practice for some crew members on Tempanos to walk across hatch covers above partly open holds contrary to industry safety guidelines.

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Citing the MAIB report Dr Gopinath Chandroth, inspector of marine accidents, said: “Although there was clear guidance available regarding safe cargo operations on container ships, it was not always communicated to vessels calling at Felixstowe.

“Tempanos’ safety management system did not contain sufficient guidance or instructions to the crew about the hazards of walking on partially open hatch covers.”

The inquest heard port staff had complained just hours before the accident that a crew member had been spotted walking on the hatch cover of a partly-opened hold directly under a container as it was being lifted on board.

Summing up, assistant deputy Suffolk coroner Dr Daniel Sharpstone said toxicology reports showed no traces of drugs or drink and he said a search of his living quarters revealed no prescription medication or illicit substances.

And investigation by Suffolk police and the Marine and Coastguard Agency found no grounds for a criminal prosecution.

A jury of six men and five women returned a verdict of accidental death after 55 minutes of deliberations.

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