RIB driver Morgan George Smith, 21, of Northampton is now serving a three-year jail sentence for gross negligence manslaughter

A RIB driver is now starting a three-year jail team after he killed a passenger when the RIB he was piloting collided with a buoy in Poole Harbour.

Morgan George Smith, 21, of Northampton, was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident and was driving the RIB at nearly 30 knots, approximately three times the acceptable speed limit.

On 20 July 2023, Smith pleaded guilty to gross negligence manslaughter at Bournemouth Crown Court. He was sentenced to three years in prison on 21 November at Winchester Crown Court.

Speaking after the sentencing, Detective Inspector Mark Jenkins of Dorset Police’s Major Crime Investigation Team said Smith “showed no regard for the safety of his passengers on the RIB by embarking on a journey at high speed, across an unfamiliar and congested harbour at night whilst under the influence of alcohol. He was not qualified or trained to operate the RIB at night.

“Further to this, Smith did not wear a lifejacket, and did not encourage his passengers to do so either. He allowed Mr Haw to sit in the bow of the vessel, putting him at the most risk of being ejected from the RIB in the event of a collision,” added DI Jenkins.

The court had heard that on the evening of 1 May 2022, Smith had attended a regatta prize giving event at Poole Yacht Club with friends and other regatta competitors including 24-year-old David Haw.

During the evening, Smith was captured on CCTV buying and drinking several alcoholic drinks.

Following the event, Smith agreed to take Mr Haw back to where he was staying for the weekend near Sandbanks in a RIB, after dropping off three other people at Poole Quay.

Lifeboat volunteers searching in fog

Volunteers with Poole RNLI Lifeboat Station were part of the search for David Haw. Credit: RNLI/Poole RNLI Lifeboat Station

At around 12.18am on Monday 2 May 2022, the RIB collided with the Diver Buoy in the Middle Ship Channel. The buoy stands four metres above the waterline and is illuminated. The impact caused Mr Haw and another passenger on the boat to be thrown into the water.

While the other passenger was able to make their way back to the boat, David Haw was not located.

The incident was reported to Dorset Police at 1.59am after the RIB driver Smith and the other passenger had made their way back to shore in the damaged RIB and alerted a resident living nearby.

Extensive searches were carried out in the Poole Harbour area, with specialist police dive teams supported by HM Coastguard, the RNLI and volunteers from Dorset Search and Rescue and Wessex Flood and Water Rescue Unit.

The body of David Haw was found in Poole Harbour on 14 May 2022.

The accident happened in the Middle Ships Channel in Poole Harbour. Credit: Getty

An investigation was launched by Dorset Police’s Major Crime Investigation Team, working with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and other specialist units within Dorset Police.

The investigation also worked with nationally recognised experts to provide detailed analysis of the circumstances including mapping, route and speed analysis of the RIB.

Enquiries found that Smith was travelling at close to 30 knots, approximately three times the acceptable speed limit and was navigating in darkness using a mobile phone, which would have compromised his night vision.

Lifejackets were on board the RIB, but were not worn. In addition to this, Smith was not qualified to operate the RIB in night-time conditions.

Smith was arrested during the evening of 2 May 2022 and following consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service, the RIB driver was charged.

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Detective Inspector Mark Jenkins, of the MCIT, said: “First and foremost, the thoughts of the investigation team remain with the family and friends of David Haw through this extremely difficult time. We have been absolutely committed to establishing what happened and carried out a detailed investigation working closely with partner agencies and marine specialists both within Dorset Police and externally.”

“This case is a very sad reminder of the need for boat operators to prioritise the safety of their passengers and others while on the water and the possible tragic consequences if safety procedures are not adhered to,” he added.

The Lead Investigator at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Mark Cam, said: “Not only had the defendant been drinking when the crash happened but he had also failed to gain sufficient training to operate a powerboat at night without posing a deadly risk to others.

“This case has tragically demonstrated how alcohol and vessels do not mix, and the importance of getting the right qualifications to stay safe on the water.

“We worked hard to give strong support to Dorset Police’s investigation, and our thoughts remain with the family and friends of David Haw.”