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Father of girl, 15, who died after speedboat crash pays tribute to his ‘beautiful daughter’

The father of a 15-year-old girl who died after a speedboat crashed into a buoy has paid tribute to his beautiful daughter – as he revealed he was on the same boat along with his wife and older daughter, 19, who suffered broken arms.

Simon Lewis said the family were in shock and feeling a ‘deep sense of loss’ following his daughter Emily’s death in yesterday’s speedboat accident in Southampton Water.

Mr Lewis, his wife Nikki and Emily’s older sister Amy, 19, had all been on the Rigid Inflatable Boat, which was heading into the Solent, when it struck the navigation buoy.

Mrs Lewis and Amy both suffered broken arms.

Two people suffered minor injuries after they were flung into the water when the RIB, which was carrying 12 people, hit a navigation boy yesterday, but Emily suffered fatal impact injuries as a result of the high speed crash. 

A passing pleasure boat rushed to the scene, followed by lifeboats, and casualties were ferried ashore before being taken to Southampton General Hospital for treatment.

Mr Lewis said today: ‘Nikki and I need to share some very tragic news today. Our beautiful daughter Emily passed away yesterday.

‘We were all involved in a boating accident in the Solent and Em suffered serious trauma and died not long after we got to hospital.

‘Nikki and Amy suffered broken arms and are doing as well as expected.

‘I have pain but no breaks but the emotional pain far outways the physical.

‘We are all in shock that our beautiful daughter and sister is no longer with us and words just don’t seem to be available to express our deep sense of loss.’

A neighbour of the family, who live in a five bedroom, £500,000 detached home in Park Gate, near Southampton, today described Emily as ‘a lovely girl’.

The woman said: ‘They are a delightful family and Emily was a lovely girl. It’s just so very, very sad. My heart goes out to them.’  

Emily, who had been conscious when she was taken ashore, later died in hospital of her injuries. 

Police are now appealing for witnesses to yesterday’s crash to come forward.

A Hampshire Constabulary spokesman said: ‘We’re appealing for information and video footage following a fatal collision between a Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat and a buoy in Southampton Water.

‘The incident took place at around 10.10am yesterday morning in Southampton Water between Netley Abbey and Hythe Pier.

‘Twelve people who were on board were taken to hospital. Sadly, one of the passengers, a 15-year-old girl was pronounced dead in hospital.

‘The girl’s next of kin are being supported by specialist officers from Hampshire Constabulary.

‘All of the other passengers received hospital treatment – some for serious injuries.

‘Our investigation, alongside the Maritime & Coastguard Agency and the Marine Accident Investigation Branch, continues and we are asking people to submit any footage they have of the incident to us.’

Detective Superintendent Neil Corrigan added: ‘This was a tragic incident, and our thoughts remain with the young girl’s family at this difficult time.

‘We are now building a picture of what happened on the water that day, and the circumstances leading up to this collision.

‘It is important we gather as much visual evidence as we can, as well as accounts from any witnesses.

‘We know that there was a ferry heading towards East Cowes, Isle of Wight, which left Southampton at 10am. Were you on this ferry, and did you see or record any of this incident?

‘Equally, were you out on the water on Saturday the 22nd of August between 9.30am and 10.30am, in Southampton Water between Netley Abbey and Hythe Pier?’

A local mariner said conditions in the Solent had been very difficult on Saturday, with strong spring tides coupled with winds of 8 on the Beaufort Scale at times – up to 46mph.

He said that navigation markers in the Solent were usually very large, and could be the size of a small car.

‘In a RIB at high speed if you hit something at high speed everyone gets thrown forward like on a fairground ride.

‘People are usually holding on to the seat in front so you often see crushing injuries because it is decelerating so fast, so you see things like crushed ribs.’

No one in a RIB would be strapped in, he said, because if the vessel were to flip over everyone would be trapped underwater. 

An RNLI spokeswoman tonight said: ‘It was a tragic accident which happened around one of the navigation buoys off Netley at the top of Southampton Water.

‘It was very windy out there but the pleasure boat that went out there was very capable.

‘As a result of a coming together of the RIB and the buoy, 12 people had to be rescued – some were walking wounded and some were fine. 

‘Two people were flung into the water. The girl was not one of those but there are ramifications of crashing into anything at speed and she suffered impact injuries.

‘She was with family who were relatively unharmed.

‘The girl was extracted by a private pleasure boat which was first on the scene and she was conscious at the time.

‘Lifeboats attended and people were taken ashore and then taken to hospital by ambulance.

‘My understanding is that the boat had left Southampton and was doing a trip out on the water for an hour or so before it was due to return.’

It is understood that the girl and her family got on the boat at Ocean Village Marina in Southampton, but it is not known where the girl is from.

A HM Coastguard spokeswoman said: ‘Three lifeboats, a Coastguard Rescue Team and the Ambulance Service were all called to assist.

‘There were some injuries and the 12 people who were on board were taken to shore and handed into the care of the ambulance service. Marine Accident Investigation Branch have been informed.’ 

A boat owner at Ocean Village Marina today said he saw the damaged RIB, run by charter firm Seadogz, being brought back into harbour after the tragic accident.

Seadogz, which describes itself as ‘The Original Extreme RIB Charter Experience’, has been running trips out of the marina for around eight years but were not sailing today. Its other boat was moored at its berth.

He said: ‘I was coming back in myself around 11am and I could immediately see something wasn’t right.

‘The port side tube on the RIB had deflated so it had evidently hit the navigation buoy on the boat’s front left side.

‘The RIB was being brought in by one of the Seadogz guys so I assume that was the skipper. 

‘Seadogz run two boats and one is still in its berth here but the one from the accident has obviously been taken away.

‘They are very capable, all weather boats and it was choppy out there yesterday but nothing that a boat like that cannot handle.

‘It’s a terribly tragic accident.

‘Navigation buoys don’t move so it’s all a bit of mystery.

‘If I was guessing I would say maybe there was a malfunction with the boat, maybe the steering, or something could have happened to obscure the skipper’s view, like a passenger standing up.

‘These boats can easily do 50 knots and if you hit a buoy at more than 30 knots it will be a hell of an impact.

‘When I came into harbour there were loads of ambulances and paramedics and I saw one guy on a stretcher with a neck brace who didn’t look to be in a good way.

‘I assume the poor girl had already been taken to hospital.

‘There were loads of RNLI and MAIB workers around as well.’

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