Inquest hears of officer’s death on warship

HMS Ocean
HMS Ocean
The fragment of the Union Flag

Items celebrating life of Admiral Lord Nelson collect £491,438 at Sotheby’s auction in London

Have your say

A Royal Navy officer fell to his death from a landing craft suspended from the side of helicopter carrier HMS Ocean, an inquest has heard.

Lieutenant Joshua Woodhouse, 25, from Portsmouth, died after suffering severe head injuries in the incident which happened while the warship was moored at a naval base in the USA.

He fell 40ft from a landing craft which was suspended from a bay on the side of the ship and landed on another craft in the water below.

He was not wearing safety gear.

The engineering officer was taken to hospital in Jacksonville, Florida, but later died after the incident on August 6, 2010.

Today marked the start of a two-week inquest into the sailor’s death in the coroner’s court at Portsmouth Guildhall.

A jury will have to decide what caused the sailor to fall.

The Royal Navy police’s Special Investigations Branch conducted its own inquiry into what happened.

Royal Navy police investigators ruled out foul play or suicide as the cause of his death.

Lieutenant Commander Geoffrey Wilson, the officer in charge of the investigation at the time, said concerns had been raised in a report in November 2008 about health and safety procedures on board HMS Ocean.

Investigators also noted that the ladders and deck of the landing craft were greasy and slippery, possibly as a result of the tropical weather in Florida.

Lt Cdr Wilson said: ‘[Lt Woodhouse] was dressed in overalls and protective footwear but a harness, hard hat or life jacket was not being worn.

‘Lt Woodhouse was seriously injured in the incident and later succumbed to his injuries in hospital.

‘Lt Woodhouse had not been the victim of an intentional act or suicide.’

An American doctor who examined Lt Woodhouse gave the cause of death as head injuries.

This was supported by a British pathologist who examined Lt Woodhouse’s body when he was repatriated to the UK.

The night before he fell, Lt Woodhouse had left the ship and gone ashore, returning at 2.05am.

A fellow sailor who saw him later that morning said he appeared ’slightly shabby with slightly bloodshot eyes’.

Devonport-based HMS Ocean is the second largest warship in the Royal Navy’s fleet.

The inquest continues.