The Daily Telegraph

Girl died after ‘Mr Safe’ skipper hit buoy at high speed, court told

- By Neil Johnston senior news reporter

‘His actions that day fell far below those of a competent skipper’

A SCHOOLGIRL died in a speedboat crash after a “grossly negligent” skipper nicknamed “Mr Safe” smashed straight into a 15ft buoy, a court heard.

Michael Lawrence, 55, is accused of taking risks by performing daring stunts before he ploughed into a huge metal buoy at more than 40mph.

The accident on Southampto­n Water threw passengers overboard, left them with broken bones, and killed Emily Lewis, 15, as her chest was crushed against a metal handle. The “beautiful” schoolgirl died in hospital later that day from catastroph­ic injuries.

Winchester Crown Court heard that after the crash Mr Lawrence paced up and down the boat “not appearing to assist anyone and stepping over those in his way”. Lawrence denies manslaught­er by gross negligence over the “extremely dangerous” ride.

Michael Howley, 52, the owner of Seadogz Rib Charter, denies “failing to take all reasonable steps to secure the boat operated in a safe manner” after he “delegated responsibi­lity” to the skipper. The captain initially claimed his Covid face mask was blown up by the wind and covered his eyes but the court heard that just days later he “changed his story” and blamed a momentary loss of vision for hitting the buoy.

Christine Agnew KC, prosecutin­g, said Mr Lawrence’s behaviour was “exceptiona­lly bad and grossly negligent” and added that his safety briefing before the ride on 10am on Aug 22 in 2020 was described as “wishy-washy”.

She said Mr Lawrence was either not paying attention or had been planning to turn around the buoy and miscalcula­ted, but added: “In either event, [his] actions that day fell far below those of a competent skipper.” She said that Mr Lawrence was “not an inexperien­ced seaman” but “quite the opposite” and his behaviour was more than an “extremely grave mistake”.

The court heard that in Mr Howley’s police interview he called Mr Lawrence “Mr Safe and Mr Cautious”, but Ms Agnew said neither of the men was aware of High Speed Passenger Vessel safety code. She said Mr Lawrence took risks and “failed to observe basic safe practice”.

She said that Mr Howley had failed to ensure the RIB (rigid inflatable boat) was operated safely during the 60-minute “adrenaline-fuelled” ride which involved speed, tight turns and jumps. Mr Lawrence held multiple boating qualificat­ions but took corners sharply and left passengers “uncomforta­ble” as the boat reached speeds of 55mph.

She said that there were 14 seconds until impact and the last recorded speed was 36.6 knots. She added: “Witnesses expected the RIB to turn but some became worried when it was not doing so”.

Following the crash, Mr Lawrence called Mr Howley four times and was heard to be telling him: “Hey mate, I’ve had an accident, it’s a really bad one.”

The trial continues.

 ?? ?? Emily Lewis, 15, died in hospital from her injuries
Emily Lewis, 15, died in hospital from her injuries

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