Cape Town -

The skipper and owners of the tourist boat Miroshga, which capsized in Hout Bay last year leading to the deaths of two people, have been charged with two counts of culpable homicide, police said.

They also face several charges under the Merchant Shipping Act. Police said those charged could not be named until they had pleaded in court. A date for their court appearance has not yet been set.

The charges come just days after the first anniversary of the Miroshga’s capsizing on October 13, which led to one of the biggest sea rescues off the Cape Peninsula. The 10m whale-watching catamaran, which operated out of Hout Bay, capsized in big swells with three crew and 35 passengers, including four children, on board. It had set out on a trip to the nearby Seal Island.

Local crew member John Roberts and British tourist Peter Hyett drowned.

One of the survivors, Anna-Marie Wever of Stellenbosch, said: “I did not know about the charges, but I believe it must be done. Those people must never again be allowed to operate a boat that way. People can try to duck and dive about what happened, but the boat didn’t sink, it is there as evidence.”

Wever was one of three women who were trapped under the Miroshga for more than three hours and who survived by pulling themselves into a small cupboard where a pocket of air kept them alive. They were rescued by divers.

Wever said at time: “It was dark in there. The boat was moving and the water rushing backwards and forwards, very strongly. I don’t know how long we were in there when we heard someone shouting from outside, knocking on the hull. When I heard that voice it was like a sound out of heaven.”

The divers located the women when they saw the legs of one of them hanging in the water.

Wever said on Thursday she believed the SA Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) should take some of the blame.

“Samsa had to see that the boat was seaworthy and give them certificates. Now everyone is looking at the crew, but they would not have been operating if Samsa had done their job.”

Wever, who was taken to hospital with injuries, has incurred R50 000 in medical expenses.

An investigation by Samsa, released in February, concluded that the incident could have been prevented had the owners and crew taken action to put right what was wrong with the vessel and the crew. Had the crew been properly trained in emergency procedures and had they carried them out effectively, the vessel might not have capsized and two people might not have lost their lives.

The investigation found that there had been flooding below decks through vents, that bilge pumps were not working, that compartments beneath the deck were not watertight, the alarm system on the bilge pumps had been disconnected, the battery flooded and the engines failed. The skipper was not licensed to carry passengers.

The crew had failed to execute efficiently the launching of the life raft, anchoring of the boat and raising of the distress alarm.

Cape Times