Drugs Played Major Role in Superyacht Collision that Claimed Life of Crewman

High Speed collision was result of Captain taking drugs

Drugs, taken by the French Captain of a 28 metre Pershing motor yacht, impaired his decision-making and responses that lead to the death of a British deckhand in a high speed collision.

This is just one of the findings of an inquiry conducted by the UK’s Marine Accident Investigation Board (MAIB) as it reports on the fatal collision between 2 motor yachts in Île Sainte-Marguerite, near Cannes, France.

The incident happened at 2100 on 25 May 2019.  It was the last day of the Cannes Film Festival when the Gibraltar registered 28 metre superyacht Vision hit the bow of the 27 metre UK registered Princess motor yacht Minx while making 33 knots in an anchorage where the speed limited is posted at 5 knots.

Drugs taken by the Captain of Vision contributed to the death of Jake Fielding

At the time of the collision Minx was anchored north of the island of St Marguerite, near Cannes, France.

Jake Feldwhere, the 29 year old rooky deckhand working on the foredeck of the Princess could do nothing to prevent being fatally struck by Vision’s bow. 

The MAIB report states “The accident happened because Vision’s skipper underestimated the risk associated with attempting a fast, close pass by the anchored Minx, a manoeuvre intended to provide an opportunity for the guests to wave goodbye, as the charterer had asked. Vision’s skipper had also consumed cannabis drugs, which is likely to have impaired his judgement.”

Jake Feldwhere, from Midhurst in West Sussex, had only just completed his basic training course and had recently arrived in the south of France.  He was on the foredeck to raise the anchor and died on his very first trip to sea.

Close-up view of the damage to motor yacht Minx’s bow

According to a statement from the Maritime Prefecture of the Mediterranean he suffered a cardiac arrest and died despite the efforts of medical staff onboard a rescue boat called to the scene.

An article in the Times newspaper, reveals that the guests on both boats had been partying together, initially in a restaurant ashore while their crews remained on the yachts.  The two groups agreed to continue their party at sea and the yachts were rafted together so they could carry on drinking on the boats.

The crew of Vision started preparing to return to Monaco at about 2030 and the guests returned to their boats.

Minx the 27 metre Princess Motoryacht

Following the collision, seventeen crew and guests, in a somewhat shocked state, were safely evacuated to a nearby harbour.

Afterwards, both vessels were towed to Port Pierre-Canto and the maritime office of Marseilles launched an investigation.

Following blood tests taken the following day which proved positive for cannabis drugs.  French prosecutors revealed at the time that the captain of Vision had been charged with involuntary manslaughter.

A safety recommendation (2021/101) has been made by the MAIB to the Royal Yachting Association and the Professional Yachting Association urging them to promulgate the safety lessons from this accident to owners and operators of commercial motor yachts.

The accident report suggests that the surface-drive propulsion system on board the Pershing was complex to operate and that there were insufficient margins for error in the skipper’s plan to allow for any misjudgement, loss of control or failure.  It highlighted the vital need for the safe operation of a commercial motor yacht, that the skipper prioritised the safety of the crew, passengers and the vessel and clearly states that the use of recreational drugs, even in a ‘tolerant’ individual can impair decision-making and responses, which are vital for the safe operation of vessels

The report concludes saying the accident took place in an anchorage with a 5-knot speed limit applicable to all vessels; however, Vision was proceeding at over six times that limit. Speed limits exist for a reason and it was unsafe to proceed at high speed in the anchorage.