The incident

On the evening of 24 March 2018, the Warrington Rowing Club was carrying out a boat capsize drill in a swimming pool. At around 1830, as a young person was being pulled to the side of the pool using a throw bag rescue line, the line parted. The young person was uninjured during the incident. The parted line was examined and found to be made up of four pieces of rope thermally fused together, and it had failed at one of the joints.

A customer notification campaign by the manufacturer, RIBER, and prompt publication of the incident in British Rowing’s newsletter, identified a total of ten throw bags with defective rescue lines. Laboratory tests conducted for the MAIB established that the joined sections were 12 times weaker than the rope itself.

Conclusions

  • The throw bag safety line parted under light loading because it was constructed using four sections of line, and the joins between the sections were 12 times weaker than the rope itself.
  • The failure of a throw bag rescue line during an emergency rescue operation in fast flowing and deep waters could potentially result in the casualty drowning.
  • At present, the only safeguard against poor and unsafe workmanship of throw bags is limited to the quality checks of the manufacturer; such checks lack third party oversight. This situation is neither tenable nor sustainable.
  • Considering the large number of throw bags in use in the UK, both in the leisure sector and emergency rescue services, the lack of a quality and safety standard needs to be addressed as a matter of priority.

Recommendations

UK MAIB recommended to the British Standards Institution to develop an appropriate standard for public rescue equipment ensuring that the topic of throw bags and their rescue lines is addressed as a priority.

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