UK & World News
Speedboat Propeller Death: Father Speaks Out
A man has described how his 14-year-old son died in his arms after he became entangled in a propeller having been thrown by a huge wave from their speedboat during a day trip.
Charlie Hutton was travelling on the rigid hull inflatable boat (Rhib) driven by his father Simon and two friends when the accident happened off The Needles landmark off the Isle of Wight on July 20 last year.
Charlie, a keen hockey player whose ambition was to compete in the Olympics, fell into the water along with one of his friends, also aged 14, during the trip.
The group had started at Mudeford in Dorset where the family, from South Croydon, Surrey, have a second home and had been staying for a short holiday.
The friend suffered a serious ankle injury but was able to get back on the boat.
A third boy, also aged 14, and Mr Hutton, 52, managed to stay on board.
Mr Hutton, a graphic designer, described how he had gone for several trips on the boat with Charlie and his two friends in the days before the accident, including water-skiing on the previous day.
Mr Hutton, who had gained Royal Yachting Association training and had been using boats since the age of 12, said he bought the Cobra 6.5-metre Rhib new in June 2010 for £50,000.
He described heading to Alum Bay that afternoon, travelling at about 25-30 knots, when the boat began to be hit by large waves.
He said that the boys, who wore life jackets or buoyancy aids, enjoyed lying towards the front of the boat, hanging on to safety ropes.
Mr Hutton said that the boat was hit by two waves at the side causing him to slow down before it was hit by a large wave at the front.
"The two came from the side and then the water almost dropped away, it was like there was a big drop and then the wave came over us, it was like a big wall of water.
"I have never come across a wave like it, it engulfed the boat and kept going for a long time."
Mr Hutton said he believed his son and one of his friends, who had both been at the front of the boat, were washed off the back of the boat.
He described how he found Charlie on top of the propeller.
He said: "I remember looking back and screaming 'Where's Charlie?'. My mind was buzzing, I suddenly realised that what I thought was oil was actually blood. There was quite a lot, about 3ft by 3ft.
"Charlie was to the right of the engine, conscious and looking at me, I tried to pull Charlie on to the boat but couldn't."
He added: "I saw his head bobbing, he was saying 'Dad, help me'."
He said that he then cut Charlie's clothing from the propeller and pulled him on to the boat where he performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on him.
Mr Hutton said that he could see two wounds at the top of both of his son's legs, one more serious than the other.
He said: "His eyes were open and he was looking at me. I tried to protect his face and told him I loved him, we all loved him.
"I could see Charlie's eyes begin to roll, his breathing became shallow. I think he died at this point."
He described how a Coastguard helicopter had responded quickly to his emergency calls and had advised him to carry out the resuscitation but he believed Charlie had died by the time he was airlifted off the boat.
Mr Hutton added: "I then phoned my wife Gill and said 'I think I have killed Charlie'."
The inquest heard that Charlie was airlifted to Southampton General Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 5.35pm.
A post-mortem examination showed he died of multiple injuries to his pelvis and left leg.
Mr Hutton and the other two boys, both from Reigate, Surrey, were taken ashore by lifeboat.
Mr Hutton said that he did not feel he had been driving the Rhib, which had a 200 horsepower engine, at excessive speed.
Caroline Sumeray, Isle of Wight coroner, recorded a verdict of accidental death.
She called on the leisure boating industry to promote the use of propeller guards to prevent further similar accidents.
Mr Hutton said: "If I had been aware of them I would probably have had one fitted."