Captain who failed to stop boat cleared of manslaughter
Published 31/07/2010 | 05:00
A PARTY boat captain was yesterday cleared of manslaughter charges following the death of a nephew of former Defence Minister Willie O'Dea.
Brazil Bourke (21) drowned after jumping from the deck of the Captain Nemo during a drunken night-time cruise off Ibiza four years ago.
Spaniard Jose Ribas (46) stood trial last month accused of failing to stop the vessel and help the student.
Mr Bourke's friends told the court Mr Ribas ignored their pleas to rescue him and left him to his fate several miles from shore.
But a judge yesterday ruled that the captain was not guilty of manslaughter. He was found guilty of one count of the lesser charge of failing to come the aid of someone requiring help.
Prosecutors had called for Mr Ribas to be jailed for four years for manslaughter and fined €18,000.
Mr Bourke, a student of Limerick Institute of Technology, was with a group of around 12 Irish friends who took the four-hour sunset cruise with another 174 passengers from the port of San Antonio on July 31, 2006.
Mr Bourke had been drinking heavily and had taken drugs including morphine, codeine and ecstasy, the judge's ruling revealed.
Mr Bourke and a friend both leapt from the boat while it was still at sea, sparking panic among the rest of the group.
The other man, Patrick Bourke, managed to swim to safety but Brazil Bourke's body was found washed up on the shore the following morning by a holidaymaker.
Mr Ribas was arrested over claims he had failed to stop the boat.
Last month Mr Bourke's parents John, a farmer, and Mary, travelled to Ibiza from their home in Hospital, Co Limerick, for the one-day court trial.
They came face to face with Mr Ribas, and heard five of Mr Bourke's friends tell the judge how the captain ignored their desperate pleas for help. State prosecutor Ruth Negreti told the court Mr Bourke's death was "preventable" had the captain acted differently on the night of the tragedy.
She said he was fully aware two men were overboard more than a mile from the port "but at no time was he concerned by the situation, nor did he stop to help".
The captain insisted he was only aware of one person being overboard and that he saw that person swim safely to shore.
He admitted failing to contact the coastguard over the incident, but claimed he did perform manoeuvres to ensure the man overboard was safe.
In a 10-page written ruling released yesterday, Judge Martina Rodriguez Caritg said prosecutors had failed to prove that Mr Ribas knew more than one person was overboard.
For that reason Mr Ribas was only convicted of one count of failing to assist.
The judge ruled Mr Ribas was at fault for failing to call the coastguard after hearing there was a man overboard.
But she said it was not clear Mr Bourke would have survived even if the coastguard had been informed.
She wrote: "The accused, despite knowing that the person had not reached land and the serious danger he was in being in the water, swimming at night, with considerable maritime traffic, decided he had finished his day's work, leaving the passenger to his own luck."
Luis Berastani Diez, representing the victim's family, said the ruling was "a travesty of justice" and that they would appeal to a higher court.
He said: "Mr Bourke's parents John and Mary will be very upset by the judge's decision."