THE business owner who chartered a speedboat which crashed and killed a 15-year-old girl in Southampton appeared in court today.
Michael Howley’s company, Seadogz Rib Charter Ltd, operated the boat which slammed into a five-tonne navigation buoy at high speed, killing passenger Emily Lewis.
Today Mr Howley, 51, dressed in a black suit and tie and wearing glasses, appeared in Crown Court to deny a charge of ‘failing to take all reasonable steps to secure the boat operated in a safe manner”.
Emily, who was on the boat with her mother Nikki, father Simon and older sister Amy, 19, was among 11 people taken to hospital after the crash.
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The schoolgirl, from Park Gate, near Southampton, Hants, died tragically at Southampton General Hospital later that day from her catastrophic chest injuries. His mother and sister each reportedly suffered a broken arm.
At Winchester Crown Court today Howley pleaded not guilty to failing to take all reasonable steps to secure the boat he owned operated ‘safely’.
He also denied another charge of failing to take reasonable action as director and owner of Seadogz Rib Charter Ltd, instead of being the owner of the boat.
Seadogz made the water trip from Southampton on August 22, 2020 which resulted in the fatal accident.
Howley, from Hordle in the New Forest, will stand trial alongside Michael Lawrence, 54, who was the captain of the rigid-hull inflatable boat and has pleaded not guilty to Lewis’s manslaughter.
He also denied failing to maintain adequate watch as captain of the boat and failing to proceed at a safe speed while steering the boat.
Mr Lawrence is expected to say the accident was an ‘unfortunate accident’.
The trial, which is expected to last four weeks with expert testimony from both sides, is due to start at Winchester Crown Court on January 9, 2023.
Judge Susan Evans set the date while acknowledging it would be a “sensitive” trial for everyone involved.
She said: “This is a sensitive trial in every way.
“I will adjourn your case now for a trial on January 9. Before that, you will have to attend a further case management hearing on July 1.”
All but one of the passengers suffered injuries including broken limbs, fractured vertebrae, dislocations and a punctured lung. Two were thrown overboard from the Seadogz boat.
Emily, seated in a middle bench seat, suffered a fatal and catastrophic chest injury in the tragedy around 10 a.m. on August 22, 2020, as families booked the excursion during the summer school holidays.
A new case management date has been set for July 1, in order to verify the progress of expert evidence in the trial.