“By late evening, the weather conditions had deteriorated substantially,” the report explains. “The wind had by then been blowing consistently from a north-westerly direction for several hours and had increased to a force 5. The five persons boarded the tender boat and headed out of Xlendi Bay in pitch darkness and into rough head seas … the tender did not arrive back at Dwerja Bay. “
"Although the local weather forecast was accurate and reliable, it was either not monitored carefully, misunderstood, or not monitored at all."
Meanwhile, on board El Pirata, concerned about the deteriorating weather and safety of the yacht, the yachtsman decided to start both engines in order to reduce the strain on the anchor cable and to maintain a safe distance from the rocks. “However, at about 0030, he decided to weigh anchor and steam up and down inside of the confined space of Dwerja Bay,” the report continues. “Due to the sea state and darkness of the nearly moonless night, the yachtsman thought it would be too dangerous to attempt to sail out of the bay to the open sea. He was unaware of the actions or predicament of the owner and the rest of the group. Instead, he assumed they would not have attempted to return to the yacht in such harsh weather conditions and were safe somewhere ashore.”
At first light the next day, El Pirata sailed to Xlendi Bay and then continued onward to Mgarr Harbour, where eventually the missing five persons were reported to the local authorities. On 7 May, the bodies of two female adults and the battered, capsized hull of the tender boat, with its outboard engine and other flotsam, were spotted at Fomm ir-Rih, Malta. The body of an adult male was recovered in the South Comino Channel on 8 May and one adult and one teenage remain missing.
As a result of the investigation, Transport Malta’s ports and yachting directorate has been recommended to disseminate safety notices to the local and foreign yachtsmen who engage in coastal activities on the: general characteristic of the coastline of the Maltese Islands and potential hazardous areas; quality of VHF and mobile network reception around the coast; importance of life saving equipment and basic navigation principals and seamanship practices. The MSIU have published an extensive report and analysis on the accident, which can be read here.
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