Trinity House Pilots Rescue Hovercraft Disaster Victims
The first ever accident in passenger hovercraft history occurred off Southsea on 4 March, 1972, when the Southsea-Ryde craft capsized in rough seas and a wind reported at 45 m.p.h. (38 knots). This was the first fatal hovercraft casualty in the United Kingdom, and regrettably four people were killed. However, on the credit side, the rescue operations were got under way very quickly and 22 people were rescued.
First on the scene was THPV Vigia which arrived one minute before the first helicopter, and despite difficulties in manoeuvring in the heavy seas, 16 people were rescued from the upturned hovercraft and taken to Portsmouth. Vigia returned to the scene of the accident and remained there until the search was called off that evening.
The hovercraft sank, but was eventually salvaged and towed into Portsmouth harbour. The crew of the Vigia; Officer of the Watch Nicholas Paul Rose, Seaman Edward Viney and Pilotage Assistant Robert Yalden, displayed great courage and outstanding seamanship in a very difficult situation.
On 2 November 1972, the Ryde-Southsea hovercraft was again involved in an accident, this time colliding with the British Rail ferry Southsea in thick fog, half a mile off Ryde, and sustained fairly substantial damage. The skirt was ripped, the propellor twisted and 12 ft. of hull was split open. Trinity House Pilot Launches again played a major part in the rescue operations. THPV Valonia rescued 8 passengers, while THPV Valid towed the damaged hovercraft back to Ryde. The whole rescue operation was completed within three quarters of an hour of notification of the collision.