The jury in the trial of a speedboat skipper accused of manslaughter has been shown video footage of the moment his boat crashed into a buoy killing a 15-year-old girl.
Emily Lewis suffered fatal injuries after the rigid inflatable boat (rib) collided with a 4.5 metre high buoy while travelling at 36.8 knots (42 mph) in Southampton Water.
A number of other passengers were seriously injured in the accident at 10.11am on Saturday August 22 2020.
Michael Lawrence, 55, who was driving the boat, has been charged with manslaughter by gross negligence, failing to maintain a proper lookout and failing to proceed at a safe speed.
Michael Howley, 52, the owner of Seadogz, the company which operated the boat trip, is accused of not operating the boat safely.
In the video clip shown to the jury at Winchester Crown Court, the Seadogz rib can be seen heading straight at the buoy before hitting it.
The woman filming the incident, who was on a passing ferry, can be heard saying: “Oh my god, someone’s gone over, I think someone’s gone over, yes, people have gone off, there are people in the water, they went right over the front. My God.”
Giving evidence at the trial, paramedic Megan Hunt, who attended Ocean Village in Southampton, after the passengers had been brought ashore, said that Lawrence had told her his face mask had blown up and blocked his vision prior to the crash.
She said he was “clearly in shock with his head in his hands”.
She said: “Mr Lawrence told me he was driving the boat and the wind blew up in his face and it blew his visor and face mask up obstructing his view, I guess covering his eyes.
“By the time he put it in place, the buoy was too close to them and he had no time to turn the boat.”
She said that Lawrence wore a face mask because he was doing the shopping for his parents who were shielding at that time.
Miss Hunt said that Lawrence had suffered an injury to his knee during the collision.
Duncan Christie, a marine officer for Associated British Ports, said he was driving a launch on the day of the crash and was alerted to the accident.
He said that when he arrived at the rib, he found Lawrence, who he had known since 1996 when they had worked on lifeboats together, “very distressed and in a panic”.
Mr Christie said: “He said that the Covid mask had gone up over his face, the wind had blown it up and covered his eyes.”
He said that Lawrence had told him “several times” that his had happened prior to the crash.
Mr Christie, who had also worked for Seadogz, described Lawrence as a “competent mariner”.
When asked by Lawrence’s counsel, Karim Khalil KC, if Lawrence was a “safe pair of hands” whom you could “totally rely on” and who was popular in the RNLI community, Mr Christie agreed and said he “certainly was”.
He also agreed with Mr Khalil’s suggestion that Lawrence was “absolutely not the sort of mariner who would want to take risks” or “who would deliberately aim at a fixed object”.
The court was shown an article in Lifeboat magazine, from the winter of 2010, headlined Master and Commander, which detailed a search and rescue mission for a missing ferry passenger which had been led by Lawrence.
Mr Khalil told the court that Lawrence was the “on-scene commander” for the incident and he received a letter of thanks from his superior officer for his “exemplary” effort and the jury was shown a certificate of commendation for his service.
The court has heard that Lawrence later changed his story and said that he had lost his vision because of some kind of blackout, rather than the face mask.
Mr Christie’s colleague, Jamie McLeod, said that when he attended the accident he saw Ms Lewis on board a rib as she was being taken ashore.
He said: “She was confused and was unwell. I could see immediately, kneeling down next to her, she was very unwell, she was very pale, she was breathing.”
Mr McLeod said that as he accompanied Lawrence back to the shore, the defendant told him repeatedly that “his face mask had blown over his eyes and obscured his vision”.
Mr McLeod added that he saw a black face mask in the centre console of the Seadogz rib involved in the accident as well as a helmet visor which looked like it had been “removed in a hurry”.
He said that he had known Lawrence for six years and described him as a “professional and conscientious” skipper.
Lawrence, of Blackfield, New Forest; and Howley, of Hordle, New Forest; deny the charges and the trial continues.