Emily Lewis: Skipper cleared of teenager’s manslaughter after speedboat crash

Emily Lewis suffered fatal injuries following the boat crash

A speedboat skipper has been acquitted of manslaughter charges, after the death of a 15-year-old girl during a ‘thrill ride’.

Passenger Emily Lewis died after the fatal crash on board a RIB, which happened on 22 August 2020. The vessel, operated by Seadogz, hit a 5-tonne buoy in Southampton Water. The Stormforce 950 RIB was recorded to travel at speeds of 47.8 knots, which is in excess of an expired speed limit of 40 knots.

A Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) report released in May found that two passengers were thrown overboard following the collision, while nine passengers and the skipper suffered ‘varying degrees of injuries’, including broken limbs and a punctured lung. Twelve people were taken to hospital after the crash.

seadogz charter crash
The boat pictured shortly before the collision. Photo courtesy of MAIB/Solent News

The RIB travelled straight towards the buoy at a speed of 36.6 knots for 14 seconds before hitting it. Lewis suffered catastrophic internal injuries and died later in hospital.

The report concluded that skipper Michael Lawrence was concentrating on conducting high-speed manoeuvres in close proximity to another vessel, and failed to notice the obstacle. The report adds that the boat’s operators observed ‘few safety practices’ as the vessel performed high-speed, one-handed stunts, moving in rapid figure-of-eight turns and narrowly missing a series of buoys.

The jury found Lawrence, 55, guilty of failing to maintain a proper lookout and failing to maintain a safe speed, but cleared him of manslaughter.

A verdict has yet to be reached for Seadogz owner Michael Howley, 52, who is also on trial in connection with Lewis’ death.

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