Speedboat driver ‘Mr Safe’ who took selfie before killer crash is spared jail

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    A speedboat driver dubbed 'Mr Safe' has been spared jail following a crash at sea that killed a teenage girl that occurred moments after he took a selfie.

    Passenger Emily Lewis, 15, died after a rigid inflatable boat steered by skipper Michael Lawrence, smashed into a buoy in Southampton Water, Hampshire, on August 22, 2020.

    Appearing at Winchester Crown Court, Lawrence, 55, denied manslaughter by gross negligence but was convicted of failing to maintain a proper lookout and failing to proceed at a safe speed.

    READ MORE: Speedboat driver accused of killing teen in crash took selfie before 'losing vision'

    Michael Howley who owns the "adrenaline-fuelled" activity company Seadogz, was convicted of not operating the boat safely.

    Lawrence who took a selfie at the start of the fatal ride during which he devastatingly lost his vision for a "split second", was today (Friday) given 18-week prison sentences suspended for two years.

    Howley received the same suspended sentence of 18 weeks behind bars.

    Lawrence, who worked as an RNLI lifeboatman for 20 years, told Winchester Crown Court that he had lost his love of sailing, having previously had a lifelong “fascination” for all kinds of boats.

    He denied being someone who would "show off" while out at sea.

    “The ride on the day up until the last bit was a ride we had done many times, we hadn’t done anything different and was well within the capability of the boat. I didn’t believe anything I was doing was unsafe," he told the court.

    Lawrence said he crossed the wake of an Isle of Wight ferry, with the boat powering straight towards a buoy for 14 seconds before hitting it.

    He told the court he used his judgment to gauge the speed of the boat, rather than a dial, and admitted he misjudged the speed.

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    Lawrence welled up while recounting how he lost his vision as the boat sped towards the buoy.

    “All I can remember is I came round the turn and straighten the boat up, I felt a little bit light-headed maybe, I don’t know how to describe that," he said.

    “Then I lost my vision and then it came back, in my timeline, I lost my vision and by the time it came back it was a split second, that’s how it felt."

    “I do not know how to explain that, I referred to it as maybe (the length of) a sneeze, there wasn’t a timeline of me going around for 10 seconds, it was a split second.

    “When I next have a memory, it was everything had changed, there were people everywhere.”

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