Sea Cadet, 14, dies after falling overboard from ship's rigging

A Sea Cadet aged 14 died after falling overboard 20-30ft from the rigging of a training ship anchored off the South Coast.

The boy, from Kent, was airlifted to hospital by coastguard helicopter following the incident in Stokes Bay, near Gosport, Hampshire, on Sunday evening but was later pronounced dead.

A Hampshire Police spokesman said he was one of a number of Sea Cadets on board the training ship TS Royalist

The Marine Accident Investigation Unit is investigating the

circumstances and the coroner has been notified.

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Solent Coastguard said it received a Mayday call from the ship at 8.30pm stating a member of the crew had fallen over the side while it was at anchor.

The Coastguard Rescue helicopter attended the scene along with the Gosport and Fareham Inshore Rescue Service.

The ship returned to shore after the incident and the remaining

youngsters disembarked to be reunited with their families. The 19 cadets and 10 staff set off on the training exercise on Friday and were meant to return a week later.

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All had earlier taken part in the 150th anniversary celebrations of the Sea Cadets with displays and demonstrations at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth harbour.

A statement released by the Marine Society & Sea Cadets said it was the first death the ship has experienced since she was commissioned in 1971.

"Our thoughts are with the young cadet's family at this distressing and painful time," it said. "The charity is now working with the Maritime Accident Investigation Branch to establish the full details of what happened and offering every assistance to the local authorities and police."

Marine Society & Sea Cadets chief executive Mike Cornish said the boy fell from a height of around 20ft to 30ft into the sea from the starboard side.

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He would have been wearing a safety harness but the cadets did not wear lifejackets when climbing the rigging in case they got tangled up.

"The cadets were ordered to furl and reef the sails, which is standard operational procedure for the night and unfortunately the cadet fell while aloft," he said.

Mr Cornish described the incident as an "extremely tragic accident" and said it was "appalling for all those involved".

"The cadets are fully trained and will only climb the rigging if comfortable with climbing," he added.

The voluntary youth organisation is open to young people aged 12 to 18 but members must be at least 13-and-a-half to go to sea.