Lady Cutler under investigation following crash in Victoria Harbour

Lady Cutler under investigation following crash in Victoria Harbour
Brendan Rees

Investigators will piece together the moments that led to the popular Lady Cutler showboat crashing in Victoria Harbour, which saw five people taken to hospital.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority has launched an investigation into the January 15 incident with their main focus being the cause of the crash.

It is understood more than 200 passengers from a Somali community group were on board the iconic multi-level vessel at the time.

According to Victoria Police, it’s believed that “a boat struck a pole in the water” about 5.30pm.

Somali Community Inc. president Farah Warsame said he witnessed chaotic scenes when passengers disembarked from the boat near Central Pier as police and paramedics tended to the injured after the incident, which had left many in shock.

Mr Warsame, who was not on the boat at the time, said he knew many of the families involved.

He explained he was on the phone to one of the passengers as they were enjoying a Sunday afternoon as part of an annual get together until he heard a “big bang” on the other end of the call.

“I heard a big bang through the phone … people were screaming a lot,” he said.  

When he rushed to the scene, he said he saw “people shaken up” and one child having difficulty breathing.

“I was told everybody on the boat fell,” Mr Warsame said, which included two pregnant women who have since been told that both the health of themselves and their babies were okay.

“It was a solid hit, a very big one,” he said.

“The families are finding out exactly what happened, they want to know what the cause of this accident was.”

Ambulance Victoria confirmed those taken to hospital were a primary school-aged boy with back soreness, a woman in her 50s with upper body injuries, a woman in her 40s with upper body injuries, and a woman in her 30s with an arm injury.

The Melbourne Showboat, the company that operates the Lady Cutler, has since apologised to passengers but declined to provide comment to Docklands News while investigations into the incident continued.

While the cause of the incident is under investigation, in which WorkSafe has been notified, vision from Nine News showed a wooden pylon and a concrete wall damaged.

Docklands News can confirm that the captain of the boat had been suspended by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and the Lady Cutler was currently halted from operations while investigations continued.

Mr Warsame said he had been inundated with phone calls not only from passengers but also the wider Somali community who were seeking answers.

“The families were telling me he [the captain] was distracted by something … we don’t know. It shouldn’t be like that,” he said.

The Lady Cutler entered service in 1968 as a former Sydney Harbour ferry and was decommissioned in 1991.

The vessel’s current owner Jeff Gordon (who was not on the boat at the time of the incident) bought the Lady Cutler in 2007 before it underwent a refurbishment and began charter cruises, catering up to 350 passengers. •

Waterways team to the rescue

Waterways team to the rescue

November 29th, 2023 - Docklands News
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