Drunken hovercraft pilot lands jail term

A hovercraft pilot has been jailed for eight months for being in charge of his passenger vessel while being at least three times over the drink-drive limit, causing it to have near misses with a tanker and a busy pier before missing its landing pad.

Richard Pease, of Cowes, Isle of Wight, pleaded guilty at a previous hearing to a charge of being master of a hovercraft having consumed excess alcohol under the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003.

The court heard that Pease collapsed at the controls as he failed to steer the craft on to its landing pad at Ryde following a crossing from Southsea, Hampshire.

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Sunyana Sharma, prosecuting, told Isle of Wight Crown Court that the 50-year-old took a breath test six hours after the incident on June 22 which gave a reading of 96mg of alcohol in 100ml of breath – the drink-drive limit is 35mg.

The defendant, who has 18 years’ experience as a hovercraft pilot, told police that he had been drinking from a bottle which he had not realised contained alcohol in a bid to keep cool and hydrated in the hot cabin during two journeys which carried a total of more than 130 people.

But the court heard that the defendant accepted that once he realised the bottle contained alcohol, he continued to drink from it.

Sentencing Pease, Judge Susan Evans QC said: “It’s tragic that someone of your standing and with such an impressive past career should have destroyed all of that in one day.

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“It was an appalling breach of your duty. Your actions could have resulted in tragedy but fortunately they did not.”

After the hearing, Miss Sharma confirmed that the sentence did not prohibit Pease from getting behind the wheel of a car.