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Inquest verdict expected on teenager who drowned in capsized speedboat

The jury at the inquest into the death of 14 year-old Emily Gardner is expected to return a verdict later today. Emily drowned last year off Brixham after being taken on a speedboat ride by her friend's father.

Yesterday the inquest in Torquay heard how Emily, from Gloucester, was pulled from the water unconscious after being trapped under the boat when her buoyancy aid became snagged.

She had been taken on the 16ft vessel by Paul Pritchard - the father of her 15-year-old best friend Holly. The boat left Brixham Harbour but overturned shortly after entering open water after being hit by a wave measuring up to 6ft.

South Devon and Torbay's Coroner's Court heard all four occupants of the boat - Mr Pritchard, Holly, Emily and friend Gemma Gadsden - were thrown into the water.

Emily was wearing an extra-small wetsuit but had been allocated an extra-large buoyancy aid, which was not a life jacket, to fit a chest of 45-50in. The inquest heard one of the straps of the buoyancy aid became caught on a boat fitting, holding Emily underneath it.

Lifeboat crews managed to free Emily 25 minutes later after winching the speedboat up, but she was pronounced dead at hospital. Mr Pritchard, a painter and decorator from Gloucester, told the inquest he and his family were "devastated" by Emily's death.

Mr Pritchard said he had known Emily from the age of two, when she became best friends with Holly at play school, and would often take her on trips.

Members of Emily's family, including her parents Deborah and Clive, wept as a 15-minute video of the incident was played to the inquest.

The footage showed the boat setting off from the harbour towards the breakwater. It then depicted RNLI lifeboats setting off and arriving at the stricken speedboat, with its upturned hull bobbing in the choppy water.

Ian Arrow, senior coroner for Plymouth, South Devon and Torbay, described the footage as "extremely stressful".

The end of the clip showed Emily being carried from the RNLI all-weather lifeboat to a waiting ambulance. Devon and Cornwall Police previously concluded that no criminal offences were committed in the incident.

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