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Solo sailor dies from mast fall after Customs boards his boat

by Lee Mylchreest on 19 Jun 2013
Scene of mast fall tragedy - yacht Windrose, photo by Scilly Today .. .
Was he fleeing from Customs officers or was it a tragic mistake? Uncertainty surrounds reports of a solo sailor's death when he fell 40 ft from his mast shortly after his yacht, Windrose, was boarded by Customs officers and he climbed the mast. The incident occurred at St Mary's Harbour in the Scilly Isles on Monday at around 8.30pm.

Last Sunday, the Dutch-registered vessel set off its EPIRB after his rigging was damaged, nine miles off the coastline, and the Royal National Lifesaving Institution (RNLI) towed him into the harbour.

The sailor who died is believed to be a Dutch national in his sixties.

Customs officers had boarded the yacht two hours before the man fell from the vessel's mast. What occurred during the two hours the officers were on board the yacht is unknown, but is the subject of an investigation. The Border Force, which includes customs, would not say why they had boarded the sailing boat.

The solo sailor is believed to have sailed into United Kingdom waters from Lagos, Portugal in Windrose, a steel-hulled 11m yacht.

Dale Clark, harbour master at St Mary's, said: 'We're all quite stunned here, we're very sad.'

Suffering severe head injuries, the sailor was taken by Royal Naval helicopter to hospital in Truro, where he was pronounced dead.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said the case had been referred to them. They were assessing it to see what action they needed to take.

In a statement Devon and Cornwall police said: 'The matter has been referred to the IPCC by the Border Force and a local investigation will be carried out this morning.'

A spokesperson for the Border Force said: 'We are assisting Devon and Cornwall police with their investigation and the incident has been referred to the IPCC.'
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