Jet skier says collision that killed Chatteris woman Rebecca Hellens will ‘haunt him’ for the rest of his life
PUBLISHED: 17:45 12 June 2017 | UPDATED: 17:45 12 June 2017
An inquest into the death of Rebecca Hellens, from Chatteris, has heard conflicting evidence surrounding the jet-ski collision that killed her.
On the third day of the hearing at Peterborough Town Hall, Nicholas Rudd told the jury the events of July 26, 2015, would haunt him for the rest of his life.
Mr Rudd, a driving instructor, aged 43, was riding a Kawasaki XI sit-down jet ski on a lake at the South Lakes Ski School, in Little Paxton, near St Neots, when it was involved in a collision with an orange Yamaha Super Jet stand-up machine being ridden by Miss Hellens.
Mr Rudd told the jury he was a poor swimmer and had never ridden a jet ski before the incident, just after 11am, and had received about five minutes tuition from Paul Turner who was Miss Hellens’s fiancé.
Mr Turner told the inquest on Thursday (June 8) that he had given Mr Rudd visual instruction and impressed upon him that he must stay in the middle section of the lake, which was reserved for beginners.
“He [Mr Turner] talked me through the procedure and explained about the steering mechanism. He told me quite a few times to keep within the buoys and stay away from the reed beds as they could damage the engine.”
Mr Rudd denied there had been any advice on staying on the middle part of the five-acre lake, or speed, and added: “There was no mention of anyone else being on the lake that day”.
Asked by assistant coroner Simon Milburn how he felt as he rode the jet ski, he said: “I was an absolute beginner, I was anxious and excited and set out gingerly.”
He proceeded to tell the hearing how he practised a few turns and spent two to three minutes getting used to the machine and as he came back down the left-hand-side of the lake he became aware of Miss Hellens.
“She was ahead of me and she was leaning over the handle bars and looking over her right shoulder and going very, very slowly. My immediate instinctive reaction was to ease off the throttle,” said Mr Rudd.
Mr Rudd says he shouted to Miss Hellens to let her know he was there, but she suddenly made a sharp turn to the left which he described as her “zipping round” and into his path.
“I looked across to her and we made eye contact and my ski went into hers, Becky toppled off the back into the water. I looked at Becky and she was face-down in the water and there was no movement. I can’t use the word collision, it was a bump, the skies came together.”
Mr Rudd then broke down as he explained how he swam over to Becky and she was making a low moaning noise.
“It will haunt me for the rest of my life. Her eyes were starring and she wasn’t with us.”
Mr Rudd alerted Mr Turner who was standing on the bank and together they managed to get Miss Hellens back to the shore, but despite attempts to save her she died later in hospital after suffering a fatal tear to her aorta.
The jury were shown photographs of damage to the right-hand-side of the orange Super Jet machine, although Mr Rudd insists he hit the jet ski on the left and believes the damage was caused after the incident, possibly during transportation.
During cross examination, Meghann McTague, representing Mr Turner, asked Mr Rudd how he had not seen Miss Hellens in time to take avoiding action.
He replied: “If you don’t look for something then you don’t see it, I wasn’t expecting to see anyone else - I wasn’t looking for another skier.”
Miss McTague put it to Mr Rudd that he hit Miss Hellens with his jet ski and it was this impact, consistent with the damage, that caused the “catastrophic major injury” that killed Miss Hellens and not the minor bump he had described.
“Your ski went up and over Becky’s ski and your ski impacted with the front of Becky’s torso,” said Miss McTague.
Mr Rudd replied: “No, I have no idea how that damage occurred.”
The inquest continues.