It was the pirate festival in Brixham last weekend. Most of the folk down at the harbourside had come to take in the buccaneering atmosphere. There were eye patches and cutlasses aplenty and even the occasional parrot. However while I was there I met a visiting couple who weren't in town to join the revellers. They had a more serious mission in mind. For they'd come to make sure that a child, who'd died in a tragic accident, didn't lose her life in vain. I said that I'd help preserve her legacy by sharing her story.
These were the grandparents of Emily Gardner. They told me that she was fourteen, the same age as my Louis is now when she came on a visit here with a schoolfriend. She drowned when the speedboat that she was on, which was being driven at high speed by her friend's father, capsized. The driver was not attached to a killcord that stops the boat in an emergency. In spite of reassuring her parents that the safety equipment was 'topnotch' Emily was provided with an adult sized lifejacket that snagged onto one of the cleats at the front of the boat. and she became trapped under it. When finally released she was taken to Torbay Hospital but staff there failed to revive her. Her grandparents said that she hadn't lost consciousness immediately when the boat had overturned.
It was before I moved here but the friend that I was with remembered the day well. It was one where the sea conditions were awful. It beggars believe some of the risks that people take offshore. It's all the more galling when they endanger the lives of others because of their incompetence. Regulations that govern pleasure boats in the UK are inadequate. There's nothing to stop people buying powerboats, yachts and the like and taking them out without any training whatsoever. In this case it's reported that the driver of the boat had all the necessary qualifications and many years experience yet he'd not heeded basic safety precautions. Britain is accused of being a nanny state but here it's legislation is severely lacking.
This accident happened off the coast of a town that has been a fishing port for hundreds of years. The sea has sustained the people here but stories abound about how it has also taken the lives of many. Maybe our community is more aware than most of the respect that it should command.
Emily's family do not want anyone else to go through what they have. So, along with the RYA, they've come up with Emily's Code to promote safety at sea. If you or your loved ones are heading out on the water please don't go out without making sure that these entirely sensible rules are followed to the letter.