A mother of three fell from a pleasure cruiser and was “sucked” into the propeller after her family received only “fleeting” advice on how to operate the vehicle, an inquest found.
Laura Perry, 38, was on her way to the cabin to comfort her crying son when the 42ft vessel hit a wall and she lost her footing and went overboard on the Norfolk Broads.
Her sister, who was in charge of one of the boat’s two agitators, could have prevented her death by pressing the emergency stop button, but she didn’t know where it was, a report found.
A report from the Marine Accident Investigation Branch described the handover and a six-minute instructional video—which was not seen by Miss Perry’s sister—as “ephemeral and incomplete.”
It said it was “necessary” that it be “complete and powerful” to ensure users can safely operate the boat.
Laura Perry, 38, was on her way to the cabin when the 42ft Diamond Emblem 1 cruiser hit a wall and she lost her footing and went overboard on the Norfolk Broads
The family was allowed to sail away from the Ferry Marina wharf in Horning, Norfolk, a minute after arriving on their Diamond Emblem cruiser. Pictured: The Diamond Emblem 1 cruiser
MAIB Deputy Superintendent Graham Wilson said: ‘No one on board fully understood the functionality of the dual rudder controls and the pilot was unaware of the upper engine stop button.’
The tragedy occurred on August 19, 2020, when Ms Perry was on holiday with her partner, James Allen, their three sons aged 16, 14 and four, her sister, her parents and her 16-year-old niece.
They were allowed to sail from the Ferry Marina wharf in Horning, Norfolk, on their cruiser Diamond Emblem one minute after arrival.
The party was off to Great Yarmouth on the River Bure for ‘shopping and sightseeing’ on the third day of the five-day holiday with Mrs Perry’s eldest son at the helm in the cabin, supervised by his father.
Mrs. Perry’s sister took over and turned back after learning there was no place to dock when the bow hit another boat, causing minor damage to both ships.
Mr Wilson told the hearing: ‘Laura went to the back of the upper deck and climbed down the stairs. She started going through the door to take care of her son, who was crying below.
“Unfortunately, she opened the back door just as the Diamond Emblem 1 slammed into the wall pretty hard. It bounces off the wall and at that moment Laura is violently thrown backwards into the water.
“Laura got sucked into the propeller and got caught in it.”
A mooring rope loosely stowed at the back of the boat also fell into the water and became wrapped around Mrs. Perry and the propeller.
Her sister, who was in charge of one of the boat’s two agitators, could have prevented her death by pressing the emergency stop button, but she didn’t know where it was
Norfolk coroner Yvonne Blake said: ‘It’s almost like a perfect storm, with the rope falling into the water at the same time.’
The Norwich Inquiry heard that a lever that transferred full control to Ms Perry’s sister had not been activated, meaning she could not use reverse to steer the boat.
Her partner and sister both jumped into the water but couldn’t save her because she “died almost instantly.”
Her body was eventually recovered by divers. An autopsy revealed she died of drowning and multiple injuries.
Mr Wilson noted that there were no guard rails on the aft deck, which might have prevented Mrs Perry from falling into the water – although it met all legal standards when it was built in 2010 and had handholds for people to hold on to.
“It’s an incredible shame that Laura just happened to be where she was with nothing to grab onto,” he added.
“She was actually three feet from the back of the boat. If she’d gone one step further into the cabin, she probably wouldn’t have fallen overboard.”
International standards for dual helm control vessels were updated in 2012 to ensure that lights are fitted to indicate which position is in full control of a boat.
But the inquest found that there were no legal requirements to retroactively install them.
The judicial investigation continues.