Studying the cause of a sailing fatality

Published on August 14th, 2019

It was the opening race in Monterey Peninsula Yacht Club’s 2019 midweek evening race series when on March 13 Rick Srigley fell off his Moore 24, Morpheus, off the coast of Monterey, CA. Srigley drowned before he could be recovered.

Following the tragic incident, US Sailing contacted the Monterey Peninsula Yacht Club (MPYC) to offer support and conduct a study that would research the incident and determine safety best practices for future considerations.

Through a collaborative effort between US Sailing and the MPYC and support from the U.S. Coast Guard, a US Sailing independent working party has released a report on the incident. The cooperation of the Coast Guard in this report, as well as their on-the-water response, played an important role in the study.

The working party was appointed by Chuck Hawley acting on behalf of US Sailing Safety at Sea Committee Chair Sally Lindsay Honey.

Over the years, US Sailing has conducted several independent reviews of sailing accidents. These reviews conducted by panelists assembled from US Sailing’s Safety at Sea Committee have improved safety guidelines for racing, communication between sailors and race organizers, and training for race officials running offshore races.

Here’s a summary of what happened:
With winds in the 20-25kt range and seas estimated in the 5-6 foot range, the remaining crew of Morpheus made a MAYDAY call and attempted a “Figure 8” recovery. They fell short on their first attempt and were unsuccessful in retrieval on the second, although there was brief hand-to-hand contact and Rick was reported to say “hurry.”

During the retrieval efforts, another crewmember from Morpheus, Dale, fell in but was recovered.

A fellow race boat, LocaMotion, noted the events and broke off racing, motoring over to assist. At first heading toward Dale, they were directed toward Rick to try to retrieve him. As LocaMotion approached Rick, they saw he was floating face-down. During this approach, LocaMotion went head to wind and the flailing boom tackle contacted crewmember David briefly stunning him and sending him into the water.

David was retrieved easily. Another crew, Fredo, was a strong and experienced swimmer. He volunteered, and with the skipper’s permission, entered the water. Fredo reached Rick and swam him over to Morpheus.

The crew of Morpheus was unable to bring Rick aboard but kept him by the stern until USCG arrived and brought him onboard.

Rick was pronounced dead at a local hospital. He had succumbed before LocaMotion had reached him. The immediate cause was drowning, “in minutes” per the Coroner, caused by cervical trauma and cold water shock.

To read the complete report…click here.

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