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Bonn: Police locate cargo ship after accident with rowers

Rhine in Bonn : Police locate cargo ship after accident with rowers

The four Godesberg rowers who capsized in the Rhine on Saturday have been released from hospital. Meanwhile, the Duisburg police have located the cargo ship involved. The question now arises as to how the accident happened.

The four rowers from Godesberg, who were injured in an accident on Saturday on the Rhine, have returned home after a stay in hospital. This was announced by Klaus Schütze, press officer of the Godesberg 1909/11 water sports club (WSVG).

The casualties were sitting in a rowing boat belonging to the WSVG. "They are fine, but they are all still in shock," continued Schütze. As reported, the club's five-man rowing boat had capsized after it had run into the fairway of a freighter. Four of the five rowers were slightly injured.

From the point of view of the Duisburg police, who are responsible for water protection on the Rhine, it was unclear until now whether the rowing boat had capsized due to direct contact with the freighter or due to its wash. The WSVG press officer said: "Our rowers really did collide with the cargo ship.

According to Jacqueline Grahl, spokeswoman of the Duisburg police, the cargo ship involved has now been identified, although it is still unclear exactly how the collision occurred. For Grahl, however, one thing is certain: "The rowers were very lucky.

In such collisions it could easily happen that the capsized persons get stuck under the cargo ship or are pulled into its propellers. It is ironic from the point of view of the WSVG: "Just three weeks ago we carried out capsize training, and now something like this happens," says club spokesman Schütze.

But he also says: "I've been on the team for six years now, and we've never experienced anything comparable here. This is the total exception".

However, something that is definitely part of the everyday life of rowers: near collisions with cargo and passenger ships on the Rhine. "But they usually end up without incident" says Schütze: "But of course the wash can cause some excitement in the boat.

The fact that a Rhine ship causes damage and then leaves from the scene of the accident is certainly not a completely new topic for the WSVG: "A few years ago, the bow waves of a ship tore away our jetty because the ship had passed by too close to the jetty and was travelling too fast," says Schütze.

A police helicopter then took up pursuit of the ship and reported it. The damage was limited at the time: "We were able to fix the jetty ourselves," says Schütze.

On the question of whether the skipper involved in the accident with the Godesberg rowers was guilty of a hit-and-run , police spokeswoman Grahl says: "Such a criminal offence does not exist in Rhine shipping.

In principle, professional skippers always have the right of way, Grahl continues: "However, this does not release them from certain duties of care. This includes, for example, that the professional skipper must warn another boat if it is on a collision course: "You always have to bear in mind that a cargo ship of about 150 metres in length cannot change its course that easily," Grahl adds.

If an accident occurs, "the skipper must also provide assistance," emphasises police spokeswoman Grahl. In this case, too, the fact that a large cargo ship cannot be stopped very easily must be taken into account: "If the skipper feels that something has happened however, he must inform the fire brigade, the waterway police or the Waterways and Shipping Authority.

Normally the Directorate-General for Waterways and Shipping (GDWS) is alerted by radio. If the skipper fails to do so, the police say that this is an administrative offence.

Since cargo ships have many blind spots, there is a high risk that skippers will not even notice an accident with a small pleasure craft. In the case of the damaged Godesberg rowers, police spokeswoman Grahl currently considers this possibility "very likely".

In addition to the captain of the cargo ship, the police also see a duty of care on the part of the Godesberg rowers: in this specific case, all five sportsmen would have had their backs to the direction of travel according to Grahl.

The one facing the direction of travel therefore „has the responsibility of being on guard". WSVG spokesman Schütze confirmed that the rowing boat involved in the accident had foot control, i.e. no helmsman of its own. Grahl added that it was now up to the police to further investigate "which responsibilities the skipper and the rowers had".

(Original text: Axel Vogel Translation: Mareike Graepel)