Families’ warning after dodgy generator kills mum and daughter

Lauren Thornton, 10, and her mother Kelly Webster, 36, both from Leyland
Lauren Thornton, 10, and her mother Kelly Webster, 36, both from Leyland

The heartbroken families of a mum and daughter killed by a faulty boat generator have said their deaths should serve as a warning to others about the dangers of shoddy work.

Matthew Eteson, 42, was convicted yesterday of causing the deaths of his partner Kelly Webster and her 10-year-old daughter Lauren Thornton on board a boat on Lake Windermere.

Pictured is the private yacht, Arniston

Pictured is the private yacht, Arniston

Kelly, 36, and Lauren were overcome by carbon monoxide fumes, after qualified Gas Safe engine Eteson fitted a dodgy generator on board his boat, Arniston.

Prior to the tragedy on Easter Monday 2013, Eteson had fitted a silencer to the generator, joining copper piping to steel using solder and jubilee clips.

He then brought the generator below deck to power a fan heater to warm the cabin where Kelly and Lauren slept.

Eteson – who throughout the trial sat outside the dock and was supported by his father – had denied gross negligence manslaughter but was convicted by a jury at Preston Crown Court yesterday.

In a prepared statement on behalf of both families, Lauren’s dad Neil Thornton said: “Throughout this trial it has become clear to the families of both Kelly and Lauren that the modifications carried out by Matthew Eteson directly contributed to their premature deaths.

“His conscious decision to install an improvised exhaust system on a generator within a confined space was doomed to fail and ultimately led to Kelly and Lauren losing their lives.

“This should serve as a warning to others of the dangers of do-it-yourself work and a failure to properly risk assess the work and to the potential consequences of death by carbon monoxide poisoning.

The court had previously heard on the afternoon of April 1, 2013, Eteson, of Appleton Road, Hale, woke feeling unwell as Kelly and Lauren napped blow deck.

He told police he thought he was having heart problems and made his way above deck to get some fresh air. But minutes later he returned to find Kelly and Lauren had been overcome by fumes.

He did not give evidence as the court heard he is suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

As the guilty verdicts were returned members of the Webster and Thornton families sobbed and comforted each other in the public gallery. Eteson and his father looked down.

Kelly and Lauren’s families later thanked their relatives and friends “for their love and support throughout this difficult time.”

High court judge Mr Justice Turner adjourned Eteson’s sentence hearing until November 13 to allow pre-sentence and psychiatric reports to be prepared.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) warned in January that all boats should be fitted with working carbon monoxide alarms and users should be warned about doing DIY, following a probe into Kelly and Lauren’s deaths.

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