Parents of drowned girl launch Emily's Code for boat owners and users

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The memory of a schoolgirl who drowned when her ill-fitting buoyancy aid snagged on part of an overturned speedboat has been honoured by the launch of a safety code aimed at preventing future tragedies.

The parents of Emily Gardner, from Gloucester, who was just 14 when she died in Brixham, south Devon on May 2 2015, are campaigning to try to save lives at sea.

On Saturday, Clive and Debbie Gardner launched Emily's Code, which highlights safety issues for small boat owners and users, at the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) Suzuki Dinghy Show in London.

They said something as simple as checking that your buoyancy aid or lifejacket fits properly could save your life.

"Many parents like us have no awareness of recreational boating safety guidelines and have never used a boat before," they said.

"When Emily went on a day trip with her friends we were reassured that safety was paramount and that the equipment was top notch.

"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."

Emily was taken on a 16ft speedboat by Paul Pritchard, the father of her 15-year-old best friend Holly, who was also on the boat with another friend, when a wave hit the vessel causing it to capsize.

An inquest into her death heard how all four were thrown into the water. One of the straps on her buoyancy aid caught on a cleat and Emily became trapped underneath the boat.

Lifeboat crews freed Emily 25 minutes later, after winching the speedboat up, but she was pronounced dead at hospital.

The code, which was debated in Westminster this week, lists a number of factors that could have prevented Emily's accident and has the backing of the RYA, HM Coastguard, British Water Ski and Wakeboard, and the RNLI. 

Gloucester MP Richard Graham helped launch the code on the main stage of the dinghy show, saying Emily's parents had been "determined to create something positive" from the tragedy.

He said: "Emily's Code can improve safety awareness and prevent accidents at sea, a vital message. If you're going on a boat at sea this summer please stop and think about Emily's Code first."

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."

Emily's Code is based on 10 key safety messages for boaters:

:: Wear a suitable lifejacket or buoyancy aid.

:: Service equipment.

:: Get trained.

:: Make a plan.

:: Know your limits. 

:: Carry distress signals.

:: Use the kill cord.

:: Know your boat.

:: Have a radio.

:: Check the weather.