UPDATED WITH VIDEO: Richard Pease, a Hovercraft pilot who was found to be nearly 3 times over the drink-drive limit whilst in control of Hovertravel’s Freedom 90 craft has been given a 8 month prison sentence today (Friday).
Pease, 50 from Northwood near Cowes, appeared in front of the Isle of Wight Crown Court and was handed down the sentence following an incident back in June in which Hovertravel staff had to step in to guide ‘Freedom 90′ into Ryde after Pease failed multiple times to bring the craft, with 36 people on board, to a safe landing.
The court heard how Pease went limp whilst in control of the Hovercraft as he headed towards Ryde Pier. A crew member stepped in to steer the hovercraft to safety before another pilot ran from the Ryde terminal to the shore line to bring the craft to land at the Ryde pad.
The pilot of 20 years was charged with driving a motor vehicle whilst above the legal alcohol limit, namely 96 microgrammes in 100 milliliters of breath, earlier this year. Pease was also charged with being responsible for conduct of a vessel that contravenes Merchant Shipping regulations.
Tonight, Peace will spend his first night behind bars at the start of his 8 month sentence.
Judge Susan Evans has today said:
“You put in jeopardy the safety of both passengers and crew. It was a gross dereliction of duty.
“You had an impeccable work record before this incident. It is tragic that a person of your standing with an impressive career should have destroyed that in just a single day.”
Neil Cunningham, Maritime and Coastguard Agency Enforcement Officer has said:
“The Master of any vessel has a duty of care to their crew and passengers, so to carry out this responsibility whilst under the influence of alcohol is totally irresponsible.
“He was clearly not in any fit state to carry out his duties safely. It is incredibly fortunate that no-one was hurt in this case.
“I would like to take this opportunity to praise the quick thinking of a crew member on board the Hovercraft Freedom 90 for safely bringing the craft to a stop in Ryde and also to thank Hovertravel for its cooperation and assistance throughout this investigation.”
A spokesperson for Hovertravel has said:
“Throughout the court proceedings Hovertravel has co-operated fully with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s investigation. Following sentencing today, we can now conclude our own internal investigation.
“Hovertravel is fully committed to the health and safety of passengers and staff, with a comprehensive set of robust policies and a zero tolerance to alcohol and drugs, all endorsed by the MCA”.
When asked whether or not Mr Pease had been dismissed from the company, Hovertravel said they are unable to comment but that the information from yesterday’s court hearing will be fed into their internal processes.
Watch a video of the incident unfolding at Ryde on 22nd June below…
Island Echo has approached Hovertravel for a statement.