Boater recalls crash for jury

A man accused of causing a fatal boat crash told the Supreme Court yesterday he at first thought he had hit a buoy.

Andrew Lake, 27, said he heard screams after the impact and realised he had been involved in a collision with another boat.

Mr Lake told the Supreme Court: “My initial thought was possibly that one of the buoys had broken off from Front Street or the yacht club.

“There were a lot of new buoys put in for the America’s Cup. I just heard the noise of the collision and put the boat in neutral. After that, I immediately heard what I know now to be Charlie Watson screaming in the water. At that point I realised I must have hit a boat.”

Mr Lake said he looked around the area of the crash and found a grey inflatable with a man, Arthur McKee, unconscious inside.

He called 911 and, while on the phone, he saw Mr McKee begin to come to and asked the injured man to remain still.

Mr Lake said that a red inflatable approached Mr Lake’s boat and the grey inflatable, and he left its crew and passengers with the damaged inflatable while he continued to look for other injured people. He added: “At that point it was clear that we had Mr McKee’s wife missing in the water, as he was screaming for her.”

Mr Lake said he continued the search until he saw the charter boat ÜberVida head to shore at speed. He explained: “It was clear when they started speeding to the dock that they recovered the last remaining person.”

Mary McKee, 62, died as a result of the late-night collision. Mr McKee suffered a fractured skull and Mr Watson suffered serious leg injuries.

Mr Lake had denied a charge of manslaughter in connection with the crash, which happened in Hamilton Harbour at about 11pm on June 1 last year.

The jury also heard that Mr Lake, from Southampton, pleaded guilty to a charge of causing death by reckless driving in connection with the same incident at a Supreme Court hearing in April.

Mr Lake told the court yesterday that he had been involved with boats for most of his life and had been assisting visiting boats along Front Street and at the Hamilton Princess during the America’s Cup.

He said that, on the evening of the crash, he had gone to the America’s Cup village to meet captains and the crews of several yachts in the hope of getting more work.

Mr Lake added: “I intended to leave at about 9.30pm, but as I was leaving, a food delivery came for the Maltese Falcon, one of the superyachts.”

He said he delivered the supplies and left Dockyard for the Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club, where he had been living on a boat.

He explained that the trip usually took about 25 minutes and that conditions that night were calm.

Mr Lake told the court that as he approached Saltus Island, he saw another boat to his right.

He explained: “When I first saw him he was doing a slower speed than I was. As I overtook him, he sped up and overtook me and then slowed down and was driving in tandem behind me.”

Mr Lake said he was travelling at between 15 and 20 knots, above the speed limit of 10 knots, when he saw something in front of his boat.

He said: “At the last possible second I saw a reflection of light on an object.

“I didn’t know what the object was. I assumed it was my lights picking up something and I immediately turned to the left.

“Almost simultaneously, I felt the impact of another unknown object.”

Mr Lake told the court that as soon as he got ashore, he approached police and told them he had been involved in the crash.

He also said that his boat did not have a speedometer, but some weeks later he tried to measure the boat’s top speed using a phone app. Mr Lake said the app recorded a top speed of 25 knots.

The trial continues.

It is The Royal Gazette’s policy not to allow comments on stories regarding court cases. As we are legally liable for any slanderous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers.

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