Eyewitness tells PBO of fog confusion

The fast catamaran Condor Vitesse was in collision with a French fishing vessel, just before 0800 this morning, in thick fog. Two fishermen were saved but a third died.

Ferry passenger Julian Buesnel, MD of Jersey-based chandlers Blue Water Supplies and a regular commuter on the St Malo to St Helier route, told PBO that the incident happened roughly halfway into the journey: ‘I think the ferry was going close to its full speed of 40 knots,’ he said, adding: ‘It was thick fog but I did not hear it blowing its foghorn since soon after leaving St Malo.’

He said that passengers felt a large judder and several bangs, and some reported an object flying past the window. One, on deck, reported looking into the wake and seeing what looked like a boat cut in half, with two people on one half. ‘We quickly stopped and turned around,’ he said, ‘and an announcement told passengers that we had hit something, possibly a log.’

But Mr Buesnel soon saw people waving from the stricken fishing boat, which kept disappearing in the fog. He said: ‘I was terrified. Every time you looked the boat was lower and lower in the water.’

First one, then later a second rescue boat was launched from the ferry, retrieving two fishermen. A third was picked up by another fishing vessel. Mr Buesnel says an appeal was broadcast on the ferry for doctors and nurses.

The third casualty was transferred to one of the RNLI Channel Island lifeboats which had arrived on scene, and taken to Jersey. Later reports indicate that this fisherman died. He was, Mr Buesnel believes, a father of three from Normandy.

One of Mr Buesnel’s party spoke to the surviving fishermen, who claimed not to have heard the ferry at all prior to the collision. They were later treated for shock.

The Condor Vitesse returned to port without assistance but is understood to have minor damage. All its passengers are safe and uninjured.

An investigation has been launched by the French authorities.

For more on this story: BBC