The parents of Emily Gardener, who drowned after her extra-large lifejacket became snagged on a sinking speedboat, have launched Emily's Code

7 March, 2017

Emily’s Code, which aims to prevent accidents at sea by highlighting key safety messages, has been officially launched.

Emily Gardner was just 14 when she drowned in a boating accident due to an ill-fitting buoyancy aid which snagged on a cleat when the boat capsized.

The code highlights a number of factors that are essential for safe boating and which could have prevented the Gloucester teenager’s accident.

Her parents have launched the code with the support of the Royal Yachting Association (RYA), HM Coastguard, British Water Ski and Wakeboard, and the RNLI to raise awareness for small boat owners and users.

Emily's Code which aims to remind boaters and sailors about safety before setting out to sea

Emily’s Code

Speaking at the launch, Emily’s parents, Clive and Debbie Gardner, said: “Many parents like us have no awareness of recreational boating safety guidelines and have never used a boat before.”

“When Emily went on a day trip with her friends we were reassured that safety was paramount and that the equipment was top notch,” they continued.

“If just one family sees this and takes action to protect their children on the water then Emily’s Code will have succeeded and Emily’s name will live on,” they stressed.

“Something as easy as checking that your lifejacket or buoyancy aid fits properly can save your life. So be smart and follow Emily’s Code,” said the Gardeners.

Emily’s Code was launched at the RYA Suzuki Dinghy Boat Show at Alexandra Palace, London. Earlier in the week, it was debated in Westminster Hall.

Rescue after RHIB is swamped by a wave in the Medway Estuary

The MP for Gloucester, Richard Graham, helped to launch the code

“The death of my constituent Emily Gardner is a tragedy from which her parents are determined to create something positive. Emily’s Code can improve safety awareness and prevent accidents at sea – a vital message,” he said.

“If you’re going on a boat at sea this summer please stop and think about Emily’s Code first,” stressed the MP.

Teenager Emily Gardner who died after her lifejacket ecame snagged

Emily Gardner

The RYA director of training and qualifications, Richard Falk, added: “We have been working to spread safety messages for many years, including making sure that you have a radio to call for help, which people can easily forget.”

“Emily’s story and now her code will help people to understand that forgetting key safety points can have serious consequences,” he stressed.

Emily’s Code comes about as the result of close work by her parents Clive and Debbie, the whole Gardner family, campaign supporter Cheryl Brown, Richard Graham MP and the RYA.

For more details about Emily’s Code  click here.


2 June, 2016

The parents of Emily Gardner are now campaigning for new legislation which would require all drivers of speedboats and powerboats to have a licence or training.

The family’s announcement comes as the inquest into the death of 14-year-old Emily concluded on 1 June.

Emily, who was from Gloucester, drowned while on holiday in Devon after her extra-large lifejacket became snagged on a sinking speedboat.

It was being driven by her friend’s father. Two of Emily’s friend – both aged 15 – were also on board the 16-foot boat when it was overturned by a 6 foot wave just outside Brixham Harbour on 2 May 2015.

The 50-year-old boat driver and the two 15 year olds managed to swim free, but Emily became trapped.

Lifeboat crews freed Emily 25 minutes after the Fletcher 155 speedboat capsized. She was given medical treatment, but never regained consciousness.

The jury at the two-day inquest in Torquay concluded that Emily died after the webbing strap on her extra-large lifejacket became caught on a cleat of the speedboat.

In a statement released after the inquest, Emily’s parents said:

“We would go everywhere together but on this bank holiday weekend one year ago we allowed our beautiful daughter to be independent from us, experience something new, something that she was excited about.”

“But if we had known that power boat drivers do not have to have a licence or training we would never have let her go and she would still be alive today,” continued Emily’s parents.

“We need people to become aware of the absence of legislation to ensure the safety of passengers on leisure craft and will campaign for laws to be brought in to close this legal loophole.”

“We can’t bring Emily back but we don’t want another family to have to endure what we have been through. As a result we will be calling for the introduction of Emily’s Law,” said Mr and Mrs Gardner.

A report by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch was released last October.

It concluded that the speed and course of the boat in the seconds before the accident “contributed significantly” to the tragedy.

It also noted that the speedboat driver was not wearing a kill cord and that the weather, tidal and sea conditions were not investigated fully before the party set out.


8 October, 2015

Emily Gardner was on board a speedboat in May this year when it capsized.

A strap from her adult-sized buoyancy aid became caught on the stern mooring cleat of the 16-foot boat, which got into difficulties after hitting a large wave off Brixham, south Devon.

The 50-year-old driver and two of Emily’s friends – both 15-year-old girls – managed to swim clear of the upturned hull but Emily became trapped despite “valiant” attempts to free her, the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) report said.

It said the trip on Saturday 02 May this year saw the boat leave Brixham harbour just after 11.30am.

A few minutes later “the driver of the speedboat opened the engine throttle to almost full speed to accelerate the boat”.

The report warned that the speed and course of the boat in the seconds before the accident “contributed significantly” to the tragedy.

Emily was wearing an adult “extra large” buoyancy aid designed for someone with a chest measurement of 44 to 50 inches, the MAIB report said.

“Emily was conscious and was attempting to escape from under the speedboat when the strap became snagged.”

It also concluded that the weather, tidal and sea conditions were not investigated fully before the party set out.

Brixham Harbour

Brixham Harbour

The report said: “The speedboat’s relative course and speed in the prevailing sea conditions contributed to the capsize but other potential contributing factors were the fitting of a new propeller, the low quantity of fuel in the bow tank and the manner in which the engine speed was increased prior to the accident.

“Although there is no legal requirement for buoyancy aids to be worn in privately owned pleasure craft, it was sensible for them to be worn.

“However, it is also important to ensure they are the right size and in good condition.

“Emily was wearing an extra-small ‘shorty’ wetsuit and an extra-large adult buoyancy aid.

“A buoyancy aid should be a close-fit to prevent it rising up when floating in the water and to minimise the risk of it snagging.”

The report also concluded Emily had made unsuccessful attempts to escape.

“Given the location of the speedboat’s stern cleats and the means by which the strap of the buoyancy aid became snagged, it is concluded that Emily was conscious and was attempting to escape from under the speedboat when the strap became snagged,” it said.

The speedboat driver was not wearing the “kill cord” which stops the engine when activated in an emergency or when the driver is thrown from the vessel.

Emily was freed 25 minutes after the boat capsized and given medical treatment, but she never regained consciousness.

The report did not make any recommendations but said the Royal Yachting Association and British Water Ski and Wakeboard intend to publicise the safety issues from this accident.

After her death, Emily’s family paid tribute to her, saying: “Our beautiful Emily was a caring, loving, gentle daughter and sister. She was full of life and had the world ahead of her. She was our diamond, now shining bright in the sky.

“She will be missed and forever in our hearts.”

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