Speedboat skipper ‘did nothing to help family’ after crash which killed girl, 15

Michael Lawrence arrives at Winchester Crown Court, Hampshire, where he is facing charges over the death of 15-year-old Emily Lewis (Andrew Matthews/PA) (PA Archive)
Michael Lawrence arrives at Winchester Crown Court, Hampshire, where he is facing charges over the death of 15-year-old Emily Lewis (Andrew Matthews/PA) (PA Archive)

The mother of a 15-year-old girl killed in a speedboat crash said the boat’s skipper “did nothing to help” her family after the impact – despite passengers “screaming” at him.

Emily Lewis suffered fatal injuries when the rigid inflatable boat hit a 4.5m-high buoy at 36.8 knots in Southampton Water at 10.11am on August 22 2020, with a number of other passengers also left badly hurt.

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 trip, is accused of not operating the boat safely.

In a statement read to Winchester Crown Court, Emily’s mother, Nikki, said she booked the ride with her husband Simon on Groupon as a surprise for their daughters Emily and Amy.

She felt Lawrence’s safety briefing was “not as professional” as one given during a previous trip.

She said: “It was quite wishy-washy, not in-depth,” adding: “He was jokey, telling us we would have an amazing time.”

Mrs Lewis said she sat next to Emily and Amy on the boat, with hoops to hold on to in front of each of them.

She said: “When we got going I was scared. I held on to Emily. I was struggling to hold myself up. I thought I was going to fall out so I held on to Emily’s hoop.”

She added: “I thought he was going too fast in comparison to the one we went on before.

“I didn’t feel safe in the bucket seat.”

Mrs Lewis continued: “The girls had an amazing time; I was scared.”

Describing the crash’s aftermath, she said: “The next thing I know is Amy screaming. I shot forward at an angle. I was between the seats, my arm broken.

“I was so winded and shocked. I was slumped and stuck, numbed and in so much pain.

“I looked for Emily. She was on the floor next to me. ‘OMG, she is blue’.

“Amy was screaming, ‘Help my sister. Help my sister’.”

Mrs Lewis said Lawrence did not go to the aid of passengers, with another passenger helping Emily on to some seats.

They tried so hard but she lost so much oxygen. Her brain was starved of oxygen

Emily's mother, Nikki

She said: “Everyone was screaming at him. By the time he walked back from the front, everyone on the boat was helping each other. The skipper didn’t do anything for me and my family.

“I kept saying, ‘Emily, stay with us. It will be all right.’ ‘I am here,’ she replied.”

Another speedboat arrived and the passengers prioritised who should be transferred to it, Mrs Lewis said.

Lawrence picked Emily up to put her on the second boat, while Mrs Lewis and Amy also got on board.

Mrs Lewis said: “Emily freaked out. ‘I can’t see’. She was distressed and kept moving around. She wanted to get up.

“A kind lady was trying to keep Emily calm. Emily drifted between being shouty and being not.”

When they reached the hospital, Mrs Lewis said a nurse told her Emily was “very poorly”.

Mrs Lewis said she was asked to see Emily rather than have her own broken arm treated and was taken in a wheelchair to see her daughter.

She said: “We all went to see Emily. They were all so amazing. They tried so hard but she lost so much oxygen. Her brain was starved of oxygen. I had to go out. I could not cope.”

Because Emily had “unsurvivable injuries”, the family decided to turn her life support off, the court has been told.

Amy Lewis, who was 18 at the time, said in a statement Lawrence joked during the safety briefing that “they hadn’t lost anyone yet”.

She added: “It was funny at that point.”

Of the ride, she said: “We were having a good time. I was a bit scared; it was really fast.

“I felt I couldn’t raise my hand without falling in the water. Mum wanted to but couldn’t.

I heard Emily say, ‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe', so we picked her up. She wasn’t well and she kept closing her eyes

Emily's sister, Amy

“I am an adrenaline junky so I loved it. When he turned sharply I felt a bit nervous and Emily was like, ‘Stop screaming’. It was happy stuff. I loved it.”

She added: “I literally said to my dad, ‘I am living my best life’, and he looked round and laughed.

“We were going forward for about 20 seconds and then we hit something. I saw nothing of the buoy or the impact.”

Ms Lewis said her arm broke as it went through the hoop’s handle and she thinks she passed out briefly.

She said: “There was a deadly silence. No-one said anything. I saw my arm; I picked it up. It sort of wasn’t attached to my body.”

She added: “I heard Emily say, ‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe’, so we picked her up. She wasn’t well and she kept closing her eyes.”

Ms Lewis said she was “angry” at Lawrence because he was stepping over people and not helping passengers. She added: “There wasn’t any urgency to help anyone.”

She continued: “Emily, she had got to the point where she turned blue. Everyone else was concerned – not him.”

Describing her sister as they were being taken ashore, Ms Lewis said: “Emily would dip in and out (of consciousness). I heard Emily say to Mum, ‘I just want to go home’. Mum replied, ‘We are going home. We are going home’.

“Emily woke up and started screaming, ‘I can’t see anything. What’s happening?’

“I said to Emily, ‘You need to calm down’.

“She said, ‘Everyone get off me’, but no-one was touching her. She was claustrophobic, I think because everything was collapsing inside her. She closed her eyes.”

At the hospital, Ms Lewis said she was taken in a wheelchair to see Emily with her parents.

She said: “I was so scared but I wanted to see her. Mum and I were put in wheelchairs and taken to the room where Emily was.

“I said goodbye to her. I gave her a kiss and I decided I couldn’t be in the room any more so I walked out and Mum and Dad remained.”

Lawrence, of Blackfield, New Forest, and Howley, of Hordle, New Forest, deny the charges. The trial continues.