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Michael Lawrence and Michael Howley given suspended jail sentences over Marchwood boat crash which killed teenager Emily Lewis

Two New Forest men found guilty of safety lapses, which led to a RIB crash fatally injuring a teenage girl, have been given suspended jail sentences.

Michael Lawrence (55) of Hartsgrove Avenue, Blackfield, and Michael Howley (52) of Deer Park Close, New Milton, both appeared at Winchester Crown Court today (Friday) having been convicted by a jury last month.

Lawrence was found guilty of failing to maintain a proper lookout and a safe speed during the crash, which killed 15-year-old Emily Lewis on Southampton Water, near Marchwood, in August 2020.

The RIB involved in the crash (picture: Solent News & Photo Agency)
The RIB involved in the crash (picture: Solent News & Photo Agency)

He was found not guilty of gross negligence manslaughter.

Howley, who owned Seadogz Ribs which operated the rigid inflatable boat, was convicted of failing to operate the vessel safely.

The incident happened on August 22, 2020, when Emily and her family were among a group of passengers on board the RIB which collided with a buoy.

Emily suffered serious injuries and died after being taken to hospital.

Judge Mr Justice Christopher Butcher sentenced both men to 18 weeks in prison, suspended for two years, and ordered they each complete 125 hours unpaid work.

He told them: "Your prosecution arose from a terrible and tragic event. [Emily] was a fun, caring young girl, who would have grown up to be an amazing adult.

"Her death has left a void in [her family's] lives.

"It was an incident with profound and lasting consequences, quite apart from the devastating fact of Emily's death."

Emily Lewis
Emily Lewis

In a statement, Emily's family said: "After two-and-a-half long years, we have managed to get some of the justice that Emily so deserved, and that the responsibility for her death as well as the life-changing injuries to the other passengers on board that day has finally been proven.

"Every one of us on the boat, including Mr Lawrence, were seriously affected both physically and mentally by the mistakes he made on that day.

"We do appreciate that Mr Lawrence did not set out that day for events to happen in this tragic way. However, the way in which he dealt with the unfolding situation fell far below our expectations of the very qualified mariner he was known to be.

"Due to the haphazard implementation of the guidance by Mr Howley which, if it had been followed more rigorously, would have likely resulted in there being no crash, and Mr Lawrence's over confidence in his abilities, all of us on the RIB that day have found ourselves in this incredibly dire situation of serious injuries and, most obviously, the death of Emily.

"As you may imagine, not a day goes by without us missing Emily. The loss of someone so young, vital, and full of life is truly a burden to bear. We now hope that we may be able to start to rebuild our lives and be able to grieve for the loss of our wonderful daughter, Emily."

After the sentencing, DCI Danielle Daltrey said: "Our thoughts are with Emily's family and friends, and all those who were passengers on the RIB that day.

"Each and every one of them has shown great courage throughout what has been an extremely harrowing period of their lives.

"While no sentence will ever change what has happened to Emily, I hope her family are now able to find some closure.

"This is a tragic case which has highlighted how vitally important it is for those who own and operate vessels take full notice of maritime guidance and legislation, and how key it is for even the most experienced of skippers to remain vigilant and ensure they have the safety of those on board at the forefront of their mind at all times."

Mark Flavell, senior maritime investigator for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, said: “The MCA fully supported Hampshire Constabulary with their investigation into the tragic collision of the rigid inflatable boat operated by the Seadogz company.

“This is a vital reminder to the maritime community that operators of these sort of excursions are responsible for the safety of their passengers and there are requirements in place for them to protect their passengers.

“The MCA and police will pursue any individual or company that fails to follow safe operating procedures, including an adequate risk assessment and effective planning for the activity being operated.

“We never want to see this happen again.”

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