Tragedy In Wootton Creek
Friday 10 May 1946
An inquest was held on Wednesday 22 May into the sailing accident in which Dennis Hatcher age 17 years lost his life in Wootton Creek.
His father told the inquest that his son left the house around 6.00pm. to go sailing with friends from Wootton Youth Club. Around 11.00pm he was advised that his son was missing as a result of a boating accident in Wootton Creek. He said that his son owned a small sailing boat but did not have a lot of sailing experience and could not swim.
Jean White of Wootton High Street a fellow member of the youth club said that she, Margaret Cooper and one other went sailing with the deceased about 7.30pm in an open 10 foot dinghy. They rowed out to a buoy and then hoisted the sails and preceded down the Creek towards the sea; near Lisle Court a sudden gust of wind capsized the boat. When she came to the surface there was no sign of Dennis Hatcher, she and the other two were rescued by another boat.
One of the leaders of the youth club then gave evidence and said that the club had permission from a lady to use three of her dinghies. In his opinion the boats were quite safe and had been used many times before. In reply to the deceases father he said that he did not think that the boat was overloaded with four people in, in fact it provided more weight and improved stability. He had spoken to his son before he took the boat out and was assured by him that he had sufficient experience to sail the boat. It was also assumed that all people using boats on the creek could swim.
Another witness said he had sailed small boats on the creek for the last six years and you could never be sure what the wind would do due to the high ground on either side of the creek.
The police said that a search was made as soon as the alarm was raised and continued until the light failed. At low tide on Saturday and Sunday the creek was dragged but nothing was found. On the following Tuesday the body was recovered from the sea near Ranalagh Works.
In recording a verdict of “death by misadventure” the Coroner said he was satisfied that the boat was a proper one for use on the creek but questioned allowing four people in the boat. He was an experienced sailor himself and he though what had happened was the dinghy jibed and the deceased at the helm was taken by surprise and failed to loosen the sail causing the boat to capsize.
Footnote: The three rescued girls were taken to Lisle Court, given hot baths and brandy then taken home by the police.
Isle of Wight County Press
Footnote supplied by Margaret McCall (nee Cooper)