Yacht tragedy theory revealed

A YACHT which capsized off the Devon coast, claiming the life of a Suffolk man, may have hit a submerged container from the stricken cargo vessel MS Napoli, it has been revealed.

A YACHT which capsized off the Devon coast, claiming the life of a Suffolk man, may have hit a submerged container from the stricken cargo vessel MS Napoli, it has been revealed.

Jamie Butcher, from Mildenhall, was sailing on the Hooligan 5 vessel when it overturned on Saturday afternoon. Four of the boat's crew members were rescued after making their way on to a life raft, but Mr Butcher, 27, did not survive.

An investigation is now being carried out by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) to determine the cause of the tragic accident.

But last night, a source close to the crew of the yacht told the EADT he believed the incident might have been triggered by debris from the Napoli - a cargo ship that was abandoned off the west country coast after it started taking in water, causing hundreds of containers to wash up on a Devon beach.

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The rumours into what could be responsible for making the yacht capsize are believed to have been started when traces of red paint were found on the underside of Hooligan 5 by salvage crews in charge of rescuing the vessel and bringing it back to shore.

When asked about the possibility of the vessel hitting an underwater obstruction, MAIB inspector Willem Hart said he could not rule it out, but stressed it was just one of many possible theories being looked at.

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“It would be unfair to comment on any particular thread of the investigation, and we will be looking at all these options. We do not wish to discount anything,” he said.

“There is no evidence to suggest it was a container, but we will be looking at that.”

RNLI lifeboats, Sea King rescue helicopters, and Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels were among those sent out to the crew's aid, after red flares were seen seven miles off Prawle Point, near Salcombe.

The four surviving crew members were airlifted to hospital in Plymouth suffering from slight hypothermia. Mr Butcher's body was later discovered in the water by the crew of the Salcombe lifeboat.

Mr Hart said the findings of the investigation into the accident - which was only at the preliminary stage - would be passed to the chief inspector of marine accidents who would decide whether it was necessary to proceed with a full investigation.

Mr Hart said: “We are not here to apportion blame, and we have no authority to prosecute. Our job is simply to make recommendations in order to prevent a recurrence of the incident.”

The MSC Napoli began to sink about 50 miles off the Lizard, in Cornwall, on January 19, after taking in water through a hole in its side as it made its way along the English Channel.

A spokesman for the RNLI lifeboat station in Salcombe said yesterday he was not aware of any containers such as those from the Napoli being spotted near the site of the weekend's tragedy. But confirmed he had heard the rumour that a container from the Napoli had been involved.

Mr Butcher's devastated parents, Julia and Richard, from Courier Close in Mildenhall, said: “All the crew members were very experienced, and we do not know why the boat capsized. This is just a very tragic accident.”

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