Boat death tragedy was accidental

A FATHER has told how a loose fitting life jacket may have contributed to his son's tragic death off the Suffolk coast.Phillip Beer was out on a boating trip with his son, Mark, aged 41, when their speedboat ran into difficulties off the coast of Minsmere, near Dunwich.

A FATHER has told how a loose fitting life jacket may have contributed to his son's tragic death off the Suffolk coast.

Phillip Beer was out on a boating trip with his son, Mark, aged 41, when their speedboat ran into difficulties off the coast of Minsmere, near Dunwich.

Although father-of-one Mark, of TonningStreet, Lowestoft, was wearing a waist-strap Crewsaver lifejacket, it is thought it was not pulled tight enough to keep his head above water.

His father, 64, of North Parade, Lowestoft, is now calling for all Crewsaver lifejackets to be fitted with a body strap – one that loops between the legs – as standard to stop any further tragedies.


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He said: "I think if Mark had had the leg straps on he would be here today. I would like any weekend sailors in this area to take notice that jacket straps are important. It has been a big shock to us. You do not expect your children to die before you do. I cannot be angry but unfortunately we are the ones that suffer."

His wife, and Mark's stepmother, Veronica Beer, said: "It has brought the family closer. I hope some good comes out of it – if it stops a similar tragedy happening."

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Mr Beer told the coroner at Lowestoft Magistrates Court that he and his son had decided to take Mark's speedboat – previously used for the past ten years on the Broads and kept in his garage – to Southwold and launch it into the sea on August 29.

He said that although they made it down the coast safely enough, returning they were forced to steer manually before the engine cut out about 200ft off the coast of Minsmere at around 2.15pm.

The boat was swept up onto the shore twice and the two men decided to bail out water to launch the boat again but that the second time the waves kept washing over the boat so Mr Beer suggested they both get out of the boat and swim to shore as they were both within their depths.

However, Mr Beer tried to recover a bag from the boat but found the tide was taking him within 20ft of Minsmere Sluice and decided it was too dangerous to recover the bag and swan to shore.

He said: "I was expecting to see Mark there to greet me but instead I saw two men shouting at me. It was only then that I saw what was happening to Mark. There was nothing I could do at this time."

One of the men was Paul Green, a warden with the RSPB at Minsmere Reserve, who contacted his office and asked for a coastguard at around 4.15pm.

A lifeboat from Aldeburgh recovered the unconscious Mark Beer at around 4.50pm and tried to resuscitate him on the shore before he was flown by helicopter to Ipswich Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Helmsman Adrian Burns told the coroner that Mark Beer's life jacket had risen up his body, which could have caused his head to be pushed under the water.

Mr Burns said: "The life jacket was done up correctly but had risen up because there were no leg straps. Or it could have been because the other straps were not tight enough."

Coroner George Leguen de Lacroix recorded a verdict of accidental death and commended Mr Green's common sense to call for help.

He said: "It seems this tragedy arose due to the malfunctioning steering and the engine of the speed boat but once Mark was in the water. It would appear that his life jacket was not adjusted sufficiently tightly around his body. It is an unfortunate fact that often a day's pleasure outing ends in tragedy. I do not think anyone could have saved Mark in any particular circumstances."

No one at Crewsaver which is based in Gosport, Hampshire, was available to comment.

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