When the news broke of a tragic accident in Padstow, Cornwall over the Early May Bank Holiday weekend, there were many who wondered if the RIB's driver had been wearing a kill cord. Surely if he had been, the accident should never have happened? It was an awful reminder of why we should always wear one.

Kill cord correctly attached

A kill cord correctly attached to a driver's knee.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has published a safety bulletin today, ahead of its full report, in which it says that the RIB involved in the  accident was fitted with a kill cord but that it was not attached to the driver at the time.

The accident resulted in two deaths - that of a father and his daughter - when the boat's occupants were thrown into the water and the boat continued circling, causing multiple injuries in addition to the two fatalities. It was a sobering story after a lovely Bank Holiday weekend which saw plenty of families enjoying the delights the water has to offer. However, had a kill cord been attached to the driver, the boat would have had its power cut and there should have been nothing worse than a few wet people.

The MAIB report states: "At approximately 1549 (BST) on Sunday 5 May 2013 a family of two adults and four children were ejected from their 8.0m rigid hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) into the water. They were manoeuvring the boat at speed in the Camel Estuary near Padstow, Cornwall, UK. Some members of the family were subsequently run over by the RHIB, leading to the death of the father and the eight-year-old daughter and serious injuries to the mother and the four-year-old son."

It adds: "The mechanism that led to the family being ejected from the RHIB into the water, is not clear. The RHIB was fitted with a kill cord, but this was not attached to the driver at the time of the accident. Consequently, when the driver was ejected from the boat, the kill cord did not operate to stop the engine and the RHIB continued to circle out of control, and at speed. As the RHIB circled, it ran over the family in the water a number of times, leading to the deaths and injuries." Read the full report by the MAIB here.

The Royal Yachting Association is among those adding its voice to ensure that the tragic incident serves as a warning to others. Richard Falk, RYA Training Manager and Chief Examiner said: “The kill cord serves only one vital purpose, to stop the engine when the driver moves away from the controls for whatever reason.”

He adds: “No one wants a repeat of this tragic accident and so the RYA is urging everyone driving a powerboat, RIB or personal watercraft to make sure that they attach the kill cord around their leg before they switch on their engine. RYA safety guidance and training advocates the wearing of a kill cord. In this type of boat it is just as important as wearing a lifejacket or buoyancy aid. Both are there to protect you."

In addition, the RYA and the MAIB urge all owners and operators of  vessels fitted with a kill cord to:

• Test them regularly to ensure that the engine stops when the kill cord mechanism is operated
• Make sure that the cord is in good condition
• Always attach the cord to the driver, ideally before the engine is started, but certainly before the engine  is put in gear
• When changing drivers it is strongly recommended that you should turn the engine off before transferring the kill cord from one driver to the other. The engine should only be restarted when the kill cord has been securely attached to the new driver.

Written by: Gael Pawson
Gael Pawson is the editor of Yachts & Yachting Magazine and the founder of Creating Waves. A keen racer, she has sailed all her life, and started writing about the subject whilst studying journalism at university. Dinghies and small keelboats are her first loves, but she has cruised and raced a huge variety of boats in locations across the world.