Motorboat & Yachting: A passenger hovercraft pilot found guilty of drink-driving has been sentenced to eight months in jail today (10 September).
Richard Pease of Cowes was found to have almost three-times the limit of alcohol in his system six hours after he was taken ill at the helm of Freedom 90, which operates from Southsea to Ryde.
The 80ft hovercraft, which is capable of 45 knots, carried 134 passengers across the Solent on Sunday 22 June before the 50-yeard-old skipper had to be relieved of his duties and helped off the vessel by a member of crew.
Mr Pease, who has 18 years’ experience as a hovercraft pilot, pleaded guilty at a hearing earlier this summer. While handing down the sentence at Winchester Crown Court, Judge Susan Evans, said: “You put in jeopardy the safety of your passengers, your crew and other vessels in the Solent.
“This was a grave dereliction of duty and your actions could have resulted in tragedy. It’s tragic that someone of your standing and with such an impressive past career should have destroyed all of that in one day.”
His actions have also been condemned by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, with enforcement officer Neil Cunningham adding: “The master of any vessel has a duty of care to their crew and passengers, so to carry out this responsibility whilst under the influence of alcohol is totally irresponsible.
“Mr Pease was clearly not in any fit state to carry out his duties safely. It is incredibly fortunate that no-one was hurt in this case. “I would like to take this opportunity to praise the quick thinking of a crew member on board the Hovercraft Freedom 90 for safely bringing the craft to a stop in Ryde and also to thank Hovertravel for its cooperation and assistance throughout this investigation.”
Mr Pease’s former employers Hovertravel are the world’s oldest hovercraft operator and the only passenger hovercraft operator in the UK.