Mum's drowning leads to new guidance on 'sophisticated' Broads cruisers

The emergency services at an incident on the River Bure at Great Yarmouth. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The MAIB has issued its report following the death of a mother-of-three after falling from a hire cruiser on the River Bure in Great Yarmouth. - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

Broads holidaymakers need more help in piloting increasingly large and complex motor cruisers, an investigation has found after a mum-of-three drowned.

A report released by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch said Laura Perry, 38, of City Walk, London, became entangled in rope and the propeller, suffering multiple injuries that resulted in her drowning.

According to the report, an adequate guardrail at the back of the Diamond Emblem 1 would likely have prevented the tragedy on August 19, 2020, at Yarmouth Yacht Station on the River Bure.

The emergency services at an incident on the River Bure at Great Yarmouth. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The scene of the tragedy on the River Bure in August 2020. - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

It also said the family did not have enough knowledge or skills to drive the boat which had dual helm controls, after a handover which took "about ten minutes."

The Broads Authority and boat hirers have since brought in new safety measures as part of a new code with more rangers patrolling the waterways and advising on safety.

Andrew Moll, chief inspector of Marine Accidents, said: “Boating holidays provide an excellent way of experiencing the UK’s network of inland waterways and the vast majority of the many trips completed each year are safe and uneventful.

"However, this tragic accident demonstrates that boating is not without risk.

Emergency services are dealing with an incident on the river Bure in Great Yarmouth. Picture: Liz Co

Emergency services at the scene of the tragedy in North Quay, Great Yarmouth, in August 2020. - Credit: Archant

"A serious situation can quickly develop from benign circumstances if adequate precautions are not in place to mitigate the risks associated with controlling the boat and preventing people from falling overboard.

“Large motor cruisers with sophisticated controls are becoming increasingly common and are often driven by members of the public who have limited or no proficiency in boat handling.

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"It is imperative that complex multi helm controls incorporate appropriate technical features and indications to minimise the likelihood of an inadvertent loss of control.

"Adequate protection around exposed deck areas is equally important in ensuring that no one falls into the water.

The Diamond Emblem cruiser moored at Great Yarmouth Yacht Station the day after a woman died at the

The Diamond Emblem cruiser the day after the tragedy in August 2020. - Credit: Archant

"Furthermore, handovers, including in-water demonstrations, and hire boat documentation need to be complete and rigorous in order to ensure that hirers have sufficient proficiency to safely handle the vessel in their charge."

Mr Moll went on to make a series of recommendations to enhance the governance, oversight and safety of hire boat operations.

He also recommended the boat's operator enhanced its handover procedures and undertook a thorough assessment of the risks of people falling overboard from its hire craft.

He added: "Such an assessment is essential to ensuring that another similar accident to this does not happen again.”

Recommendations have also been made to the Broads Authority.

TOUGH TIMES: Chief Executive of the Broads Authority, John Packman

Chief executive of the Broads Authority, John Packman - Credit: Archant

Broads Authority chief executive, John Packman said: “Our thoughts are very much with the family of Laura Perry and also with our staff, who were first on the scene of this tragedy.

"These terrible events are a rarity on our waterways and although any activity on or near waters requires care and caution, the Broads remains a calm and enjoyable place to experience boating, wildlife, and a quieter pace of life.

"The Broads Authority has assisted the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) with their investigation and welcomes the report and its contents.

"The authority also welcomes the MAIB recommendations provided to the code for the design, construction and operation of hire boats, also known as the Hire Boat Code, which brings improvements to key aspects of the code."

From  April 1, the code became mandatory on Broads Authority waters and includes tighter rules around the hand-over of hire vessels and improved in-water trials now required for all hired craft, including day boats.

The authority says it has also employed more rangers to patrol during the summer season, a full-time compliance and safety ranger, as well as producing a series on nine safety videos. 

Miss Perry was a mother to three boys aged four to 16. 

She was holidaying on the Norfolk Broads as part of a group of nine, including her partner, their sons, her parents, sister, and 16-year-old niece.

A funeral notice said: "She treasured her boys and embraced every minute spent with them on a multitude of trips, adventures, holidays and ‘memory-making'. She loved them and, their father, James Allen, very deeply."

Ferry Marina Boating Holidays based at Horning, which operates the Diamond Emblem 1, declined to comment.

A statement said: "As this is an ongoing process we are not able to comment at this stage."

An inquest into Miss Perry's death is due to be heard at Norfolk Coroners Court on May 23 at 1pm.