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 canoeing tragedy was an incident that led to the death of four teenagers on a sea kayaking trip in the Lyme Bay area on the south coast of England. The incident led to legislation to regulate adventure activities centres working with young people in the United Kingdom.

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.

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 investigation resulted in the prosecution of the parent company and the centre manager. The owner of the activity centre was convicted of gross negligence manslaughter over the deaths. This was the only successful conviction involving a corporation for this offence [1]in the UK. The owner was jailed for three years, but his sentence was cut to two years on appeal.

This incident 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[2] 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.[3]

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