Jurors told Gosport businessman's boat crash '˜a tragedy'

JURORS have been told that '˜few cases' are as '˜tragic' as the manslaughter trial of a businessman accused of killing his friend in a boat crash.

Monday, 20th March 2017, 2:47 pm
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:47 am
Aaron Brown

Barristers for the prosecution and defence have been making their final remarks at Winchester Crown Court in the trial of Aaron Brown.

The 34-year-old chief operating officer of telecoms firm One Com, is accused of the manslaughter of his friend Gosport businessman Ryan McKinlay, 36.

He was killed when the Williams Turbojet 325 boat Brown was piloting, with Mr McKinlay as the sole passenger, crashed into True Blue, a 62ft motor cruiser, co-owned by Brown.

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Mr McKinlay died of his chest injuries. His wife Francesca had been filming the smaller water jet-powered boat on a friend’s mobile phone during the incident in Osborne Bay, off the Isle of Wight, on June 19, 2015.

In his closing speech, prosecutor Nick Tucker told jurors the courtroom had seen hundreds of cases, serious and minor.

‘But I’m minded to say that very few of those cases will have been quite as tragic as this one,’ he said.

‘Whatever your verdicts, they will not bring Ryan McKinlay back.

‘Whether you find Aaron Brown guilty or not guilty of manslaughter he will still have to live with the hurt and pain in Ryan’s untimely passing and Ryan’s family will have to come to terms with his continuing absence.

‘Nobody wins a case such as this.’

But Mr Tucker told jurors: ‘This was not simply a minor mistake where disaster and salvation were balanced on a knife edge: this was reckless.’

He told jurors the prosecution say Brown was ‘grossly negligent,’ adding ‘his conduct on June 19, 2015, did disregard an obvious risk to Ryan McKinlay’s life.’

Mr Tucker added: ‘He chose to bring the Rib in close to True Blue and at high speed.

‘It was a choice that led to the death of Ryan McKinlay, a death that was both foreseeable and avoidable.’

Drawing comparisons with driving a car, Mr Tucker said: ‘If Mr Brown had been on the road he would have new driver plates.

‘But that didn’t stop him from embarking on a manouevre that someone like (powerboat expert Dag) Pike would have balked.’

He reminded jurors that expert witnesses differed on how fast the smaller tender was going, but the average of their estimates was 30mph.

Brown, 34, Botley Road, Curdridge, denies manslaughter by gross negligence.

In closing, Brown’s barrister Trevor Burke QC said: ‘It was a very serious mistake, it was an error of judgement, it was a very serious error of judgement.

‘That is not something that engages criminal law to find him guilty of manslaughter.’

Mr Burke urged jurors to speak out to each other during their deliberations.

He said: ‘There’s nothing in the evidence that you have heard at all to suggest that Aaron Brown is a naturally reckless man.’

The evidence suggests Brown is a ‘conscious, careful, considerate’ man responsible for around 500 jobs in his business, Mr Burke told jurors.

He added the trip was not a ‘booze cruise’, and that Brown had a glass and a half of champagne and a bottle of lager but nobody was drunk or drinking to excess.

Mr Burke said: ‘What happened, happened so quickly that it doesn’t have the hallmarks of a drunken escapade on the water.’

And he told jurors Brown’s prior conviction for speeding on the water was ‘not comparing like with like’, as nobody had been around at night when he was speeding on the River Hamble.

Jurors had already heard Brown admitted speeding at 25 to 30 knots, more than the six-knot limit, at 10pm on July 5, 2012 in an eight metre long Rib.

Mr Buke said the ‘one reason’ for the crash in 2015 was Brown had put the tender into reverse.

He said: ‘As he’s approaching (True Blue) at sea and as the vessel approach him in a swing, there came a dreadful second, a dreadful dreadful second when Aaron Brown realised that despite his best intentions he could not make that turn.’

He added: ‘There’s one reason why it happened: because he slammed it into reverse in a desperate attempt to save Ryan.

Mr Burke told jurors: ‘It’s a misjudgement that you can measure in seconds. From start to finish it’s over in a flash.’

The True Blue skipper hired for the day, Paul Carey, 52, of Chatsworth Road, Southampton, denies a charge of driving too fast in contravention of Merchant Shipping regulations, in relation to earlier driving of the Williams Turbojet 325 the same afternoon.

Carey’s barrister Mark Ashley is due to conclude his remarks at 2pm.