Lyme Bay canoeing tragedy

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Coordinates: 50°42′N 2°54′W / 50.700°N 2.900°W / 50.700; -2.900

The Lyme Bay kayaking tragedy was the deaths of four teenagers on a sea kayaking accident in the Lyme Bay area which led to legislation to regulate adventure activities centres working with young people in the UK.

On 22 March 1993, a group of eight schoolchildren and their teacher from Southway Community College, Plymouth were accompanied by two instructors from an outdoor centre on a kayak trip across Lyme Bay, on the south coast of England.

As a result of a series of errors and circumstances, four of the teenagers drowned. The party had run into difficulties straight away as one kayak became swamped. The group was swept out to sea, where all their kayaks were quickly swamped.

The subsequent trial resulted in the prosecution of the parent company and the centre manager. The owner of the activity centre and the centre itself were convicted of corporate manslaughter over the deaths. This was the first conviction for this offence in the UK. The owner was jailed for three years, but his sentence was cut to two years on appeal.

This tragedy accelerated governmental discussions to end self-regulation of outdoor education centres. The Activity Centres (Young Persons’ Safety) Act 1995, introduced by Labour MP David Jamieson was passed through Parliament in January 1995[1] and an independent licensing authority, the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority (AALA) was formed, funded by the Department of Education and Employment (DFE) and under the guidance of the Health and Safety Executive.[2] On 24 December 1998, six Venture Scouts were taken into Scottish avalanche conditions on Aonach Mor near Ben Nevis, in the ensuing avalanche, four Scouts died. There was no attempt by the AALA at a conviction for corporate manslaughter against the mountain-guide leader (who survived) and no jail sentence was sought. On October 15, 2010, Lord Young of Graffham, recommended that the AALA be abolished and the existing statutory licensing regime be replaced by a code of practice.


  1. ^ "Mum's anger at plan to scrap law brought in after four Plymouth children died". The Herald. 12 October 2011. Retrieved 28 August 2014. 
  2. ^ "From Lyme Bay to Licensing". Health and Safety Executive. Retrieved 2010-02-20.