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An architect crashed his yacht into the rocks and seriously injured three passengers after drinking ‘at least’ a bottle of wine, a court heard.

The devastating crash left the passengers ‘covered in blood’ and some were ‘lucky not to be paralysed’.

Ian Sullivan, who was described as an experienced skipper, avoided jail today at Portsmouth Crown Court after admitting to charges of failing to maintain a proper lookout and failing to proceed at a safe speed.

On September 24, 2022, he and his entourage set off from Avon Marina, in Christchurch, Dorset, before anchoring at Colwell Bay on the Isle of Wight, where they enjoyed a day of food and drink.

The £200,000 cruiser (pictured) smashed into the rocks after Sullivan had his searchlight on which obscured his vision
Ian Sullivan pictured attending Portmouth Crown Court today. He drank at least a bottle of wine on the day of the crash

Sullivan had been ‘steadily’ drinking wine and spent an evening at a bar.

The 56-year-old who runs his own successful architecture company decided to drive his entourage home on his £200,000 cruiser.

‘Wilfully blind’ to the dangers of driving in his state, the ‘idiot’ father of four sped along at 20 knots (23mph) with his spotlight on, before smashing into the obscured shore at Totland Bay on the Isle of Wight.

The court heard Sullivan was ‘out of his comfort zone’ driving in the dark.

This meant he was unaware it was better to navigate with no lights on and let his eyes ‘adjust’ to the dark which is standard practice, according to Prosecutor Tagbo Ilozue

A coastguard helicopter was needed to transfer two of the passengers to the mainland for treatment, one of which had fractured her spine.

Passengers Greg and Grace Mills and Marina Webster admitted they would not have got in with him if he’d been driving a car, it was heard.

Summarising the case, His Honour Judge Newton-Price KC said: ‘You were the owner of Sully.

‘On September 24, 2022, you operated it in an unsafe manner which you have admitted caused significant injuries to three passengers.

‘At about noon, you and your partner and friends left Avon Marina and anchored at Colwell Bay at 12.30pm.

‘You had a meal and everyone drank alcohol at the meal and afterwards.

‘You were driving the boat and your night vision was impaired.

‘Travelling at about 20 knots, you hit the shore at Totland Bay, apparently without slowing down.’

The boat crashed into Totland Bay which seriously injured passengers and left them covered in blood
Sullivan was also ordered to complete 150 hours of unpaid work, pay £20,000 in legal costs and may be subject to a further compensation order if the passengers take legal action. Pictured, a hole in the boat caused by the crash

The court heard one eyewitness said ‘look at that bloody idiot going fast, he could hit anything’.

Addressing Sullivan, Judge Newton-Price KC said: ‘You should have reduced your speed or stopped – your judgement was impaired by alcohol consumption.

‘You claimed you had four glasses of wine during the day but said you were not drunk, you said it was a complete accident.

‘You were drinking wine during the meal and at the bar after the meal.

‘Everyone present was affected to various degrees – you were drinking wine slowly but consistently.

‘You must have drunk at least one bottle of wine during that period, passengers said they wouldn’t have got in the car with you.’

He said although there is ‘no alcohol limit for seamen’ guidelines state ‘avoid alcohol as this may affect judgement’.

‘I wouldn’t expect this to happen if an experienced seaman had not had a drink,’ he continued.

‘I cannot make a precise assessment but I was sure such an impairment by alcohol was a significant contributing factor.’

He continued: ‘You, having consumed alcohol steadily over a number of hours were wilfully blind to the dangers but nonetheless took that risk.

‘As an experienced seaman you accepted you shouldn’t have acted as you did and let your eyes adjust.’

However, the judge told Sullivan his prison sentence of 18 weeks would be suspended for a year.

‘I can suspend the sentence, if I take the view you have a realistic view of rehabilitation – which I can in your case,’ he said.

Sullivan was also ordered to complete 150 hours of unpaid work, pay £20,000 in legal costs and may be subject to a further compensation order if the passengers take legal action.

The judge added: ‘Those injured in this incident may well have a potential claim and the quotation of damages is better assessed by civil courts if there is to be civil action.’

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