Daily Event for March 6

No great mystery here, human error was the cause of the capsizing of the Herald of Free Enterprise on March 6, 1987. The roll on roll off ferry provided regular service between Dover, England and Zeebruggee, Belgium. While passengers seated themselves at the bars and restaurants on board the ship, the captain eased her out of the harbor. Below the man who was responsible for closing the bow doors was asleep in his bunk. The chief, who was supposed to double check the doors, neglected to do so. On the bridge, the captain had no way to verify weather the doors were closed or not. There was no indicator anywhere on the bridge and the bow doors were not visible from there. The only way the captain could have known was to go and check himself.

After leaving the harbor the captain increased the speed of the ship for the cross Channel trip, but soon noticed that the ship was not responding as normal. She began to take on a list, this was caused by hundreds of tons of water freely entering the bow through the open doors. Soon the ship laid over on her side, settling on a sand bar in about 30' of water. This was a lucky break for not far from there she would have gone completely under.

Even with half of the ship above water, hundreds of people were trapped inside the vessel. The deaths of 193
were blamed on the two crewmen who neglected to do their jobs, but ultimately the captain received the blame
for it was his ship.
© 2006 Michael W. Pocock

Herald of Free Enterprise