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Teen who drowned was wearing buoyancy aid that was too big

Emily Gardner drowned after the boat she was on capsized last May Photo: Family

A teenage girl who drowned when a speedboat capsized was wearing a buoyancy aid that was too large for her.

Emily Gardner was wearing an aid which would fit someone with a 44” to 50” chest - much bigger than 14-year-old Emily.

An inquest heard the aid ‘was not a life jacket and was buoyant at all times’.

Two volunteer lifeboatmen told the Torquay hearing about their attempts to rescue Emily from the boat whose bow was sticking one metre out of the sea.

The pair - Merchant Navy sailor John Heale and teacher Ashley McInally – jumped into the sea to try and free Emily was ‘snagged’ by the aid to a cleat at the sunken rear of the speedboat.

Cleat: a T-shaped piece of metal or wood on a boat or ship, to which ropes are attached.

Mr Heale said a crane on one of the lifeboats raised the speedboat from the water and he saw Emily’s ‘torso and legs’. He said he could see she was trapped around her waist area and that her lifejacket was caught on a cleat.

He said the cleat would have been ‘eleven feet beneath the surface’ and he said the sea was ‘choppy’ but did not recall the conditions being ‘untoward or exceptional’.

They were at the scene of the capsized boat in 23 minutes but said:”It was difficult to free Emily.”

He said leaving the calm conditions of the breakwater to the open sea saw ‘a gradual change in conditions’ rather than a sudden difference.

Ashley McInally said a teenage girl with cuts to her face and head was brought ashore and was desperately telling RNLI crews that ‘her friend was trapped in the boat’.

John Ford, skipper of the Siler Seas ferry, went to the aid of the speedboat and tried to right it by towing it very gently in the water, to help locate and free Emily.

But he did not allow his crew to enter the water because of ‘condition of the swell’.

Torbay lifeboat coxswain Mark Criddle said Emily ‘appeared to be snagged’ and that when she was pulled from the water there was ‘no sign of life’.

The hearing was told that the kill cord which stops the engine in an emergency was not visible and the throttle had been on full speed.

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