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Heartbroken parents of capsize death teen demand law changes

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

The heartbroken parents of a teenage schoolgirl who drowned after becoming trapped in a sinking speedboat say the law should be changed.

14-year-old Emily Gardner drowned after the boat she was on capsized a year ago in May.

She was on holiday with a friend's family in Devon when the accident happened.

After the jury reached a narrative conclusion in the inquest, Emily's parents said if they'd known there was no law to ensure safety for leisure boat users Emily might still be alive.

If we had known that power boat drivers do not have to have a licence or training we would never have let her go and she would still be alive today.

– Emily's family

Emily was wearing an oversized buoyancy aid which became caught on a cleat at the back of the 18 foot speedboat which capsized after it was hit side on by a huge wave.

The inquest heard Emily’s chest size was 32” or 34” – but the aid was designed to fit someone with a chest size of 44” to 50”.

Emily was on the boat with two friends, both managed to swim free from the capsized boat Credit: Family

Emily’s parents and other family members watched webcam videos showing the boat setting off from Brixham harbour, the launch of two lifeboats – the rescue attempt – and Emily being stretchered off the lifeboat to an ambulance.

The family wept as they watched the footage at the hearing.

The UK is one of the few countries in Europe to not require people to have a licence for power boats.

Emily's parents want to see the ‘incomprehensible’ legal loophole filled with Emily’s Law to ensure the safety of passengers.

We can’t bring Emily back but we don’t want another family to have to endure what we have been through. As a result we will be calling for the introduction of Emily’s Law.

– Emily's family

At present anyone can go out and buy, in ignorance, a death trap speed boat which doesn't comply with modern safety regulations. This ridiculous situation means that people who want to participate in an activity, which is enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people, can place others’ lives in jeopardy.

– Richard Langton, Lawyer
The whole incident was caught on a Brixham Harbour webcam Credit: ITV West Country

The back of Emily's buoyancy aid became caught on a cleat when the boat overturned, despite desperate rescue efforts she couldn't be easily freed and was underwater for around 25 minutes.

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

Nicholas Hance from the Marine Accident Investigation Board said the boat was ‘in the wrong place at the wrong time’.

He said said even if Emily's buoyancy aid had been more snug fitting it may still have snagged on the cleat.

The family statement in full:

“Emily was our everything, our first born, our perfect baby girl. Losing her from our lives was heartbreaking and we will miss her forever. When Emily died a life full of dreams and adventures was extinguished along with our hopes for our beautiful daughter.

“Life was full of excitement and thrills for Emily. She hated anything mundane and would even find novel ways of doing routine jobs like housework. She was always giggling and her laugh would last a whole day sometimes if she found something funny. Everywhere she went her smile shone out. She would stand tall and proud in anything she did.

“Emily lived life to the full, revelling in all the excitement and joy it could offer. We took so much pleasure from seeing her love of life and encouraged her, as many parents to do, to take advantage of every opportunity that came her way.

“We would go everywhere together but on this Bank Holiday weekend one year ago we allowed our beautiful daughter to be independent from us, experience something new, something that she was excited about. But if we had known that power boat drivers do not have to have a licence or training we would never have let her go and she would still be alive today.

“We need people to become aware of the absence of legislation to ensure the safety of passengers on leisure craft and will campaign for laws to be brought in to close this legal loophole. We can’t bring Emily back but we don’t want another family to have to endure what we have been through. As a result we will be calling for the introduction of Emily’s Law.”

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