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Man dies in cargo ship horror fall in Northfleet

PUBLISHED: 17:54 06 October 2010

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An investigation has been launched after a 25-year-old crewman was killed in a horrific accident onboard a massive bulk carrier moored on the River Thames.

The victim was unloading gravel and ballast when he apparently became trapped in machinery which is used to unload cargo from the vessel called Fitnes and dragged to his death at Red Lion Wharf, Northfleet, just after midnight on Monday.

Police, ambulance and the Gravesend-based RNLI crew raced to the scene but were unable to save the man following the accident, which is now being investigated by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch.

Martin Johansen, managing director of Tilbury-based Stema Shipping UK, which runs the wharf, said he was waiting for official accident reports before taking any further action.

He said: “It is a terrible tragedy and when I have received the reports I will be demanding that the ship’s manager, HJH Shipping Management, carries out any changes in working practices that may be recommended before the ship returns.”

The seafarer who died is an unmarried Filipino man. His name has not been released.

Fitnes, a German owned and managed vessel had been carrying aggregate, gravel and ballast for building work, from Norway.

The 175-metre long ship, built this year and registered in Antigua and Barbuda, had been alongside the wharf and unloading for a number of days and is registered to carry cargo of up to 31,000 tonnes.

It is thought the ship’s own equipment was being used and that the seafarer became trapped on a conveyor belt system.

Tug worker Robert Bone was working on his boat during a day-off on a small wharf further along the riverside the day after the accident.

The 31-year-old said: “During Monday I saw some people in fluorescent jackets near the ship. The boat had been there two or three days, discharging. It just seems a terrible tragedy. The vessel has since moved on.”

South East Coast Ambulance Service was called to the scene after reports the man was in a cardiac arrest but he was pronounced dead at the scene and his body was recovered several hours later.

A spokesman at Southampton-based Marine Accident Investigation Branch said two investigators had gone to the scene on Monday but it would be “impossible” to say how long their probe would take.

He added: “This is an on-going investigation - it is still at very early stages.”

The lifeboat crew - Steve Cardew, Jordan Hill, and Andy Poole, were placed on standby in case there assistance was needed with recovery.

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