After a thorough investigation, police have decided not to file criminal charges after an America’s Cup catamaran capsized in May 2013, killing British Olympic star Andrew “Bart” Simpson.
America’s Cup is an international yachting trophy that is awarded to the winner of a two-yacht race. Yacht clubs have to meet certain requirements to qualify, but once they do, any yacht club can challenge the cup’s current owner.
On May 9, the 72-foot Artemis capsized when the port side hull “dug into the water and failed structurally.” Simpson, a gold and silver Olympic medalist, sustained serious head and neck injuries and drowned after being submerged for about 10 minutes, according to the autopsy report.
Some critics associated with sailing’s marquee regatta believed that the boat’s craftsmanship, rather than the pilot’s actions, caused it to crash. On Tuesday, September 9, a police report confirmed that the accident was caused by a structural failure.
Artemis had technical difficulties before the fatal accident. In fall 2012, the boat’s christening was delayed after the front beam of the catamaran was damaged during structural tests.
Several weeks before the accident, a former skipper claimed that he was terminated for bringing up safety concerns regarding the boat’s structural integrity. A second sailor who was steering the catamaran during the accident later said that the boat “folded like a taco shell.”
Both men eventually recanted their statements but refused to say why, leaving the accident once again shrouded in mystery. The police have decided not to file criminal charges, but Simpson’s family could still choose to pursue a civil case for negligence or wrongful death.
If the boat was having structural problems, they should have been addressed before the boat hit the water. By allowing it to sail in less-than-perfect conditions, the yacht club or the America’s Cup race organizers may have played a role in Simpson’s death.
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[Did You Know: Andrew Simpson’s death forced race organizers to install new safety measures, including breathing tubes and underwater locators.]
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