Friday, February 01, 2008
A boat captain whose cargo barge crashed into Battersea Bridge causing half a million pounds worth of damage was cleared. The stricken boat became wedged against the bridge, Kingston Crown Court heard. Captain Brian King, 61, of Kingsman Street, Woolwich, was taking the James Prior, a 26m-long barge, up the Thames from Fulham when he veered off course in the approach to the bridge. One of the three-man crew on the boat could be heard to say "we're not going to make it" as the boat became trapped underneath. Mark Watson, prosecuting on behalf of the Port of London Authority, told the jury that Captain King had not been paying attention to the barge's course as it drifted across the river. It is claimed at 10 knots the boat was travelling too fast for him to correct his mistake. Witness Charles Loane, who had been walking along the towpath next to the river at the time of the collision on September 20, 2005, told the court: "It was as fast as I have ever seen a large boat come up or down the Thames.
The James Prior at the Battersea BridgeMr Watson said: "He failed to exercise due care and attention and as a result his vessel went off course and crashed into the bridge." Captain King denied a charge of navigating a vessel on the Thames without due care and attention. He claimed there had been a mechanical defect with the steering that caused the barge to veer sharply off course to the left. But Mr Watson told the jury that no sign of a mechanical defect had been found by experts examining the steering after the accident. After two days of hearing prosecution evidence, the jury had to be discharged when the trial judge at Kingston Crown Court, Judge Nicholas Jones, injured his back and was unable to sit in court. The prosecution decided to offer no evidence and the captain was formally found not guilty. Mark Watson, prosecuting on behalf of the London Port Authority, said: "This was in effect Mr King's second trial as the jury in the first trial was discharged after the defendant's wife sadly died. "This incident took place more than two years ago. "With difficulties in re-listing it for trial, we are offering no evidence or seeking a third trial."