Boat tragedy family demand closure with inquest

TRAGIC: Mum and daughter
TRAGIC: Mum and daughter
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A graveside vigil was being held today for mother and daughter Kelly Webster and Lauren Thornton, to mark the first anniversary of their tragic deaths on a fume-filled boat in the Lake District.

But, as grieving relatives were gathering in a cemetery in Leyland, there were deep feelings of anger and frustration that a year on, there has still been no inquest.

“It’s been an horrific year for us,” said Kelly’s mother Nia Webster.

“And it just doesn’t get any easier. We haven’t heard a word from the police or the coroner’s office for months. We don’t know what is happening.

“An inquest will never bring them back, but it would help bring some kind of closure for our family. It’s terrible and we’re so angry.”

Kelly, 36, and Lauren, 12, died after being overcome by fumes as they slept on a private motor cruiser moored on Windermere. They were found unconscious in their beds and were airlifted to hospital where they were pronounced dead.

Boat owner Matthew Eteson was treated in hospital for carbon monoxide poisoning, but survived. The 39-year-old, who was Kelly’s fiance, had been sleeping in a different part of the boat which was less affected by the fumes.

A Marine Accident Investigation Branch report less than two months later concluded the mum and daughter had been poisoned by exhaust gases from a faulty onboard generator. The petrol-driven appliance had an improvised exhaust and silencer to remove gases from the boat, but that had become detached, with fumes leaking into the living quarters.

But 10 months on from the MAIB findings relatives are still waiting for a coroner’s verdict on what happened on that Easter Monday a year ago.

“They haven’t let us know anything,” said Mrs Webster. “We haven’t seen or heard from the police in months.

“The last time we spoke to them they didn’t say much, just that they were carrying on doing what they were doing - whatever that was.

“It’s terrible really because we expected to be kept more informed than this. We were allocated a family liaison officer after Kelly and Lauren’s deaths, but I think they have only visited us about three times in 12 months.

“It’s been awful. But we have a good family and good friends and we have all managed to get through it together.

“We are just very angry really because we don’t know what’s going on. We can’t understand it because we’ve been told very little all along. It’s hard to even get through to Cumbria Police to talk to them.

“We go to the cemetery every day to tend the grave. But I haven’t been up to the Lake District since it happened. I won’t go near the place and I never will again.”

Schoolfriends of Lauren were marking the occasion today with a special assembly at St Anne’s RC Primary where she was a Year Six pupil.

In a statement today Cumbria Police said they were “continuing to investigate the cause of the deaths of Kelly Webster and Lauren Thornton.

A spokesman said: “Police are in close contact with the families and they have been kept updated of the progression of the investigation.

“The police also remain in close contact with the coroner and the Marine Accident Investigation Branch about the investigation.”