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Les enquêtes techniques

Camargue - La Voulte english summary

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publié le 10 février 2011

On 28 March 2006 at 2:28 am, the passenger boat CAMARGUE, which was carrying 138 passengers and 25 crew members, collided with one of the piers of the railway viaduct in La‑Voulte‑sur‑Rhône, while attempting to negotiate bridge. The impact caused significant damage to the boat’s superstructure and nine passengers were slightly injured. The bridge suffered no damage to speak of and the accident did not affect traffic on the river.
The boat remained under control and was quickly able to dock nearby. All the passengers were forced to disembark and the emergency services performed their role in a satisfactory manner.

The direct cause was an incorrect approach trajectory.
During periods of high water, the speed of the current and the presence of cross-currents make navigation on the river difficult, requiring an experienced and extremely vigilant pilot. The particularly hazardous nature of the site is demonstrated by the fact that several accidents have previously occurred where the river passes under the Voulte bridge, one of which caused the death of a crew member on 18 January 2004 and also gave rise to a BEA-TT investigation.

Pilot fatigue also seemed to be an aggravating factor, and the pilot had only just started his night watch when the accident occurred.
Furthermore, the investigation showed that the regulations governing the issuance of navigation permits needed clarification.
It also appeared that the structural elements of the Voulte bridge had not been modified after the accident of 18 January 2004. Indeed, during the investigation into the latter, the piers were judged to be particularly hazardous should a boat collide with them, and this had warranted a special report by the BEA-TT. These structural elements did not aggravate the consequences of this particular accident, but they may have caused much more serious damage had the boat’s approach been slightly different.

Seven recommendations were formulated subsequent to the technical investigation, in three areas identified for preventive action :
- factors relating to the pilot, with four recommendations regarding work organisation, the qualifications pilots need to hold and the set-up of training tools for particularly dangerous sections of the Rhône,
- factors relating to the boat’s characteristics, which led a recommendation to be made regarding navigation permit regulations,
- risk factors linked to the waterway’s environment, justifying two recommendations which, in particular, reiterated the recommendations made subsequent to the investigation into the accident of 18 January 2004, involving another boat passing under the Voulte bridge.