Tragedy of the canoe under the English Channel: bereaved families criticize the investigation |  UK News

Tragedy of the canoe under the English Channel: bereaved families criticize the investigation | UK News

The bereaved families who lost loved ones in a mass drowning in the English Channel a year ago have criticized the UK body investigating the tragedy for its lack of progress in determining how and why dozens of lives were lost.

An interim report from the Marine Accident Investigation Branch released on Thursday confirmed the boat had reached UK waters.

Officials initially believed the tragedy was beyond their jurisdiction as the bodies and survivors were found in the French part of the English Channel.

But an investigation into the UK search and rescue response was launched in January “when it became clear that some of the events relating to this loss of life had taken place in UK waters”, the report said.

He adds that when authorities sent search and rescue services, there was no sign of the boat or its passengers.

In the incident on November 24, 2021, 31 people drowned after repeatedly making SOS calls to French and British emergency services.

Among those aboard the overcrowded dinghy, 27 bodies were found. Four are still missing. Only two people survived the disaster, which was the worst maritime incident of its kind in the English Channel for 30 years.

Speaking through their lawyer on the one-year anniversary of the tragedy, the families expressed dismay at the MAIB’s two-page interim report.

The bereaved families are further distressed as on Wednesday they received generic text or WhatsApp letters from MAIB which did not refer to them or their lost loved ones by name, asking them to provide evidence to the inquest, such as than the last telephone conversations they might have had with loved ones when the dinghy began to deflate in the early hours of November 24. Relatives say they do not understand why it took a year for the MAIB to get in touch with them.

Maria Thomas, solicitors for Duncan Lewis, said: ‘There has been no speed or transparency in the legal action brought by the bereaved families. Speed ​​is key as it ensures that evidence is preserved, and it is concerning that it has taken so long to contact families.

“Families received de-identified letters without their names or the name of the relative they lost, the day before the birthday, making them feel that the investigators did not care about them. This further eroded their confidence in the MAIB survey.

She added: “We need to carry out an independent investigation into what happened that night. The English and French sides should have access to each other’s records from the night of the drownings. If there are any issues systemic factors that sank the boat that night, these must be identified in an independent investigation to ensure that a tragedy like this does not happen again.

A MAIB spokesperson said: “On the anniversary of the crash, our hearts go out to those who lost loved ones in this tragedy. Although it may not be possible to fully understand what happened at the time of the accident, it is important that we consider whether the UK emergency response was appropriate that night once it became clear that boats migrants could be in distress in British waters.

“The purpose of our investigation is to improve safety and if lessons can be learned, and if deemed appropriate, we will make recommendations to resolve the issues identified. Our investigation is ongoing and we plan to publish it early of summer 2023. »

The spokesperson added that tracing the families of the victims was “a complex process”.

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