Boat which crashed killing girl, 15, was ‘not following safe working practices’

·3-min read

A sightseeing boat which crashed killing a 15-year-old girl made “high-speed” manoeuvres and was not following “safe working practices”, according to a report into the accident.

Emily Lewis was among 12 people taken to hospital after the rigid inflatable boat (Rib) collided with a buoy in the Solent on August 22 last year.

An inquest opened into her death heard she was taken to Southampton General Hospital where she died despite attempts to save her life.

A report released by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) revealed that the teenager was “catapulted into the handrail directly in front of her seat” when the Rib crashed into the North-West Netley buoy in Southampton Water at a speed of 38.4 knots.

Southampton Water collision victim
Undated handout photo issued by Hampshire Police showing Emily Lewis, 15, whose family have paid tribute to her today, after she sadly died following a collision between a Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat and a buoy, on Saturday, on Southampton Water. (Family handout/PA)

Two of the 11 passengers were thrown overboard and all the remaining passengers as well as the skipper suffered “varying degrees of injuries”.

The interim report highlighted “urgent safety considerations”, stating: “During the trip the passengers became accustomed to passing close by large navigation buoys at speed which resulted in them being unconcerned at the crafts approach to the buoy and so did not attempt to alert the skipper.

“High speed figure-of-eight turns completed during the trip, increased the risk of hooking or spinning out.

“The skipper was operating single-handedly, at high speed and did not see the navigation buoy, which was directly ahead, for 10 seconds before impact.”

The MAIB has now called on all high-speed craft operators to review their risk assessments and working practices under its voluntary Code of Practice (CoP) to prevent similar accidents.

A sight-seeing boat which crashed killing a 15-year-old girl (Marine Accident Investigation Branch/PA)
A sight-seeing boat which crashed killing a 15-year-old girl (Marine Accident Investigation Branch/PA)

Andrew Moll, chief inspector of marine accidents said: “What is concerning, is that few of the safe working practices in the voluntary CoP were being followed on the day of the accident.

“These rides can provide excitement, entertainment and fun, and for this reason they are popular.

“However, this dreadful accident saw nine people sustain very serious injuries and tragically cost the life of a young person.

“As the holiday season approaches, I want to remind operators that they also have a duty of care for their passengers, and safety should not be compromised in pursuit of a thrill.”

The inquest hearing last year was told that Emily, who died of an upper abdominal injury, was accompanied to hospital by her father, Simon Lewis, from the Park Gate area of Southampton.

It is understood that Emily’s father, mother Nikki and 19-year-old sister Amy were also on the boat, and that both her mother and sister suffered broken arms.

The family said in a statement released previously through Hampshire police: “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.”

Stuart Parkes, head teacher at Brookfield School where Emily was a student, described her as “kind, compassionate” and as a “bright, conscientious student”.

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