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Man jailed for gross negligence manslaughter after death of David Haw in boat collision


A boat skipper has been jailed after a man was killed when the vessel he was steering crashed into a buoy at high-speed.

Morgan Smith, 21, had been drinking alcohol prior to the collision, which took place at Poole Harbour during the early hours of 2 May, 2022.

Custody image of Morgan Smith
Morgan Smith was jailed for three years. 

The rigid hull inflatable boat (RIB), named ‘Fargo’, was travelling at up to three times the speed limit when it struck a large metal navigation buoy, and Smith, who was 19 at the time of the incident, was also using his mobile phone to assist with the boat’s navigation.

Passengers David Haw, 24, and another man were thrown overboard following the forceful impact.

The other passenger managed to reboard the boat, but Mr Haw could not be located and there was no radio onboard the RIB to contact the emergency services.

The RIB would not restart following the collision and the two men were forced to paddle back to shore before seeking help.

Despite an extensive search operation, Mr Haw could not be found on that night or in the following days. His body was eventually recovered in the water at Poole Harbour on 14 May. 

David Haw sitting on a chair
David Haw was thrown overboard following the collision.

The prosecution followed an investigation by Dorset Police’s Major Crime Investigation Team (MCIT), working with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and other specialist units within Dorset Police. 

Smith, who was not qualified or trained to conduct such a navigation at night, even at safe speed, pleaded guilty to gross negligence manslaughter at Bournemouth Crown Court on 20 July, 2023.

Today, he was sentenced to three years' imprisonment at Winchester Crown Court.

Rosemary Ainslie, head of the CPS Special Crime Division, said: “Smith made a wholly unsafe journey in a boat which clearly put his two passengers at very serious risk. 

“It was late at night, and the boat was being driven at high-speed by Smith – who was an inexperienced skipper and had earlier been drinking alcohol. 

“His helming of the RIB on the day of the tragedy fell very far below the standard of a reasonable and competent skipper, and very sadly as a result of his actions, David Haw, a young man in his prime, needlessly lost his life. 

“Our thoughts remain with David’s family and friends.”

Notes to editors

  • Morgan Smith, [DOB: 17/05/2002], of Southampton, Hampshire, pleaded guilty to gross negligence manslaughter at Bournemouth Crown Court on 20 July 2023.
  • He was sentenced to three years' imprisonment at Winchester Crown Court on 21 November. 

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