The tragic and untimely deaths of two people during the 2022 Route du Rhum are being examined by the Attorney General of Guadeloupe, who says he will “continue the investigations to understand what may have happened”.
What should have been a celebratory moment at the end of the annual Route du Rhum sailing race turned disastrous as a boat carrying nearly a dozen support workers capsized in the bay, killing two, including 35-year-old François Naveilhan, who once worked for local Ligue 1 football team, OGC Nice.
The race, which starts in Saint Malo, France, and ends in Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe, is a highlight of the racing season, and this tragedy has hit the sailing community hard.
Guadeloupe’s Attorney General, Patrick Desjardins, has been assigned the sad task of getting to the bottom of the event, and spoke earlier this week to France 3 Côte d’Azur to lay out what is known so far.
An early timeline of the incident
“This accident, with certainty, did not result from a collision between several boats, nor did it result from a bad manoeuvre which would have destabilised it,” said Desjardins.
It is alleged the incident occurred in the early hours of 16th November, at around 5am, when the boat hit an oncoming wave that caused it to flip over, trapping a number of the people onboard beneath the vessel. Some of those trapped, it is believed, were unable to free themselves because of the buoyancy of their life vests.
“The safety conditions of the boat were met, there was no overload, the life jackets had been distributed and the passengers were carrying them,” Desjardins continued. “There is no obligation for a captain to insist on his passengers wearing vests [but] there must be as many vests as passengers. The captain’s choice was [for them] to have them worn from the start. This shows he was aware of safety measures.”
The 21-year-old captain, an as-yet unnamed freelance tour guide, did not have authorisation to sail at night, and was taken into custody on 17th November, the day after the event. He was brought before an investigating judge the following day and the public prosecutor’s office opened a judicial investigation into the counts of manslaughter and involuntary injury by inattention as well as breaches of security obligations.
“The challenge is to continue the investigations and to understand what may have happened, to hear the witnesses, and to understand the conditions under which this boat was able to receive official authorisation to accommodate staff or guests of the Route du Rhum,” said the Attorney General.
It has been reported that Ineos-owned OGC Nice will be holding a tribute to its former employee as soon as the championship returns on 29th December.
Photo source: Ronan Potier