“It was an accident but it could have been avoided” – Stevenage sisters of speed boat accident victim Billy Davies react to coroner’s verdict of death by misadventure

Billy Davies

Billy Davies - Credit: Archant

The sisters of a Stevenage grandfather who died in a speed boat accident earlier this year have said it could have been avoided if proper safety measures had been followed.

William Davies – known to most as Billy - was pulled from the sea after an empty speed boat was found circling near Aberystwyth in August.

Following a verdict of misadventure pronounced by a coroner today, the 64-year-old’s sisters Helen and Susan Davies said a part of their hearts had been taken with him.

Helen said: “We’ve got mixed emotions and we’re still just trying to take it all in.

“At the end of the day, regardless of what the verdict was, nothing’s going to bring him back.

“It was an accident but it could have been avoided.

“If he had been wearing a life jacket we wouldn’t be talking to you about this now.

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“There’s nothing we can do now apart from try to move on.”

The pair, who now live in Stevenage, spelt out a clear warning to people doing water sports or working on the sea.

“Always wear a life jacket and never tamper with the kill switch in the boat.

“It doesn’t matter how competent you are. These things are there for a reason.”

Today’s inquest at Aberystwyth Justice Centre was told the cause of Billy’s death was drowning, and coroner Peter Brunton recorded a conclusion of misadventure.

Mr Brunton said he had “concerns” over the fact the two men were not wearing life jackets, the sea had been “choppy” and Mr Jones had taken off the kill cord which would automatically stop the engine if he were thrown overboard.

The inquest heard the men had set out at about 7.30am on August 31 to go fishing, but returned a short time later when Mr Davies started to feel unwell - which his friend put down to sea sickness.

As they approached Aberystwyth harbour, the sea got rougher and Mr Jones took off his kill cord in order to stand up for a better view in navigating the boat.

The men were thrown overboard after the boat was hit by a large wave, the inquest heard.

They were run over by the boat, and Mr Jones said Mr Davies, who was not a good swimmer, was “panicking”, and he held his friend out of the water but Mr Davies stopped breathing.

“I grabbed hold of him and was screaming for help... I had to let go of Bill as I thought I was going to drown,” Mr Jones told the inquest.

He said after Mr Davies had gone “rigid” in his arms, he swam away and untied a buoy to help them, but the lifeboat arrived before he got back to his friend.

“I was screaming at him but it was too late,” he said.

He added the sea had been “comfortable” when the pair set out.

The alarm was raised after the empty speedboat was seen circling. The town’s lifeboat was launched and police, the ambulance service, air ambulance and the coastguard were called to the scene.

Volunteers performed first aid but Mr Davies was declared dead at about 11.10am at Bronglais Hospital.

The inquest was told Mr Davies had superficial injuries to his scalp, but that would not have caused his death.

Mr Brunton said: “This was a completely unexpected tragedy”.

One of eight siblings, Billy was raised in the Welsh town of Caernarfon before his family moved to Stevenage.

He went to Collenswood School and later joined the army for a year. He also worked as a taxi driver and a car mechanic, and for a while in the 1960s worked at Stevenage Outdoor Market.

He moved to Aberystwyth 10 years ago with his second wife Debbie Davies and worked there as a security guard.

The sisters spent the day at home in Stevenage with their 89-year-old mother Mary, awaiting the verdict.

They are already planning to visit St Matthew’s Church in Borth on the anniversary of his death, which they say is a fitting resting place for a man who loved Wales and loved the outdoors so much he had moved back to the land of his birth in recent years.

Susan said: “He’s back home in Wales where he loved to be. He can look out over the hills, it’s a magnificent setting for him.”

Billy leaves behind five children, 17 grandchildren and three great grandchildren.