Two charged over fatal speedboat crash in Solent

seadogz ribcharter Photo courtesy of MAIB

Two men have been charged in connection with the death of a teenage girl during a boat sightseeing excursion. 

Emily Lewis, 15, from Park Gate near Southampton, suffered catastrophic injuries after the Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) hit a buoy on the Solent near Southampton Water on 22 August 2020. 

Michael Lawrence, 54, who was driving the speedboat operated by Seadogz Rib Charter Ltd, has been charged with gross negligence manslaughter, reports the BBC.

Company owner Michael Howley, 51, has been charged with failing to take all reasonable steps to secure that the boat was operated in a safe manner.

They will both appear at Southampton Magistrates’ Court on 2 February.

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.

The report states that the boat’s operators observed “few safety practices” as Seadogz performed high-speed, one-handed stunts, moving in rapid figure-of-eight turns and narrowly missing a series of buoys.

Seadogz collided with the 5-tonne buoy because the RIB’s skipper was concentrating on conducting high-speed manoeuvres in close proximity to another vessel, the report found.

seadogz charter crash
An image showing the moment before the boat crashed into the 5-tonne buoy. Photo courtesy of MAIB/Solent News

The force of the head-on 38.4-knot (44.2mph) crash knocked the buoy over to an almost horizontal position and threw the RIB’s bow upwards. The impact caused all on board to be thrown violently forward from their seats.

Lewis was a pre-booked passenger on the scheduled one-hour trip, which departed from Ocean Village Marina. She was taken to Southampton General Hospital after the collision, where she later died.

Her parents, Nikki and Simon, and sister Amy were also on the boat. Her mother and sister suffered broken arms.

Following Emily’s death, her family said in a statement released through Hampshire constabulary: “We are all in shock that our beautiful daughter and sister is no longer with us, and words just don’t seem available to express our deep sense of loss.”

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