Drunk boat skipper who killed passenger after crashing into buoy jailed

Drunk boat skipper who killed passenger after crashing into buoy jailed

The drunk boater crashed into a buoy after a night of drinking (Picture: PA)

A boat skipper who killed his passenger by crashing into a buoy after a drinking session at a sailing regatta has been jailed for three years.

Morgan Smith, 21, pleaded guilty to gross negligence manslaughter over the death of 24-year-old David Haw in Poole Harbour, Dorset, in the early hours of May 2, 2022.

Mr Haw, from Sussex, was thrown from the rigid inflatable boat (Rib) and his body was found 12 days later.

The judge, Mrs Justice Cockerill, said such Rib journeys ‘occurred regularly’ and called on the marine industry to learn lessons and make sure ‘such a tragic case doesn’t occur again’.

She described Mr Haw as a ‘brilliant young man’ who was ‘in the prime of his life’ when he died.

Prosecutor Mark Watson KC told Winchester Crown Court that Smith and Mr Haw had been attending a regatta prize-giving at Poole Yacht Club during the evening prior to the crash.

He said Smith was seen on CCTV drinking from the afternoon and into the evening, and began skipping at night despite not being trained for it.

David Haw was found 12 days after going missing after the boat crash (Picture: PA)

The prosecutor said the defendant had taken Mr Haw and four others home from the event.

The collision with the buoy, which was 4m high and 2.25m wide, happened after Smith had dropped off three of his passengers, leaving himself, Mr Haw and Alistair Gifford onboard.

Mr Watson said the boat was travelling at up to 34 knots – three times the 10-knot speed limit – when it collided with Diver Buoy in the Middle Ship Channel.

He said: ‘This was a wholly unnecessary journey which clearly put passengers at risk of death.

‘It was conducted in a wholly unsafe manner, at very high speed, at three times the speed limit where the accident occurred.

‘It was a journey embarked on at night in very challenging navigating conditions where there was no margin for error, a journey by a helmsman who was not qualified or trained to conduct such a navigation, not even at a safe speed.’

Mr Haw was thrown from the boat and his body was found 12 days later (Picture: PA)

He said the situation was made worse by Smith navigating using his mobile phone, which would have made it difficult for his eyes to adjust to the low light.

Both Smith and Mr Gifford lost their phones during the collison and were left with no radio – and no means to call emergency services after the accident, and could not find the emergency flares.

The pair managed to get to Parkstone Yacht Club and woke up a neighbour, but the alarm was not raised until nearly two hours after the crash, and Mr Haw’s body wasn’t found for another 12 days.

In a victim impact statement read to the court, Mr Haw’s parents Gillian and Richard described his death as a ‘totally unnecessary disaster’.

They said: ‘He was our only child at the very start of his adult life, we have been cruelly robbed of a future life with David.

‘We will never experience the joy and pride of seeing him develop, he had so many plans and dreams and was starting to make a difference.

‘He lived every moment of his life with a passion. He had the talent of making everyone feel like he was their best friend.’

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Oliver Powell, defending, said Smith, a keen sailor who had represented Team GB since the age of 14, was ‘deeply remorseful’ for his actions.

He said Smith, who works in the marine industry, was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and was attending counselling and alcoholic anonymous sessions.

Rosemary Ainslie, head of the Crown Prosecution Service Special Crime Division, said: ‘His helming of the Rib on the day of the tragedy fell very far below the standard of a reasonable and competent skipper, and very sadly as a result of his actions, David Haw, a young man in his prime, needlessly lost his life.

‘Our thoughts remain with David’s family and friends.’

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