Danish high court increases sentence for driver in fatal jetski accident

The Østre Landsret high court has extended by six months the prison sentence given to a 25-year-old who piloted a jetski involved in an accident in Copenhagen Harbour last year, killing two.

Danish high court increases sentence for driver in fatal jetski accident
File photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix

Two American exchange students lost their lives when the jetski driven by the 25-year-old, Frederik Oliver Schmidt, collided with their rented boat on May 6th, 2017.

READ ALSO: Man admits manslaughter charge in trial over Danish jetski tragedy

Schmidt was sentenced to two years in prison for negligent manslaughter at Copenhagen City Court in January, but the prosecution chosen to appeal for a stronger punishment, demanding a four-year sentence.

Two high court judges supported a three-year sentence while a majority of three judges felt that a six-month increase to the original custodial period was adequate, Ritzau writes.

The two-and-a-half-years also include a seven-month sentence from a previous conviction.

The decision was justified in part by the court’s belief that the jetski was driven in a genuinely reckless manner, leading to the vehicle’s confiscation.

“He has always been clear that he would take the punishment he is given. Now he is just relieved it is over,” the man’s defence lawyer Jane Ranum said.

Senior prosecutor Rikke Jensen noted in court that Schmidt had made a number of dangerous manoeuvres on the jetski in the minutes prior to the accident.

He sailed at high speed towards a speedboat and turned at the last second, spraying those on board the boat with water, the court heard.

He and seven other jetski riders were travelling at speeds of up to five times the legal limit and also ignored the attempted interventions of others in the harbour, where jetskis are forbidden.

Jensen said she was glad that the court had decided to increase the sentence.

“As a mother and resident in this city, I hope that this will send a strong signal not to ride jetskis in the harbour. They are dangerous machines and should be kept far away from light traffic,” she said.

25-year-old Schmidt had no licence to pilot the jetski, the machine was new, and he only had a few minutes’ driving experience on it before the tragic accident occurred.

In addition to the prison sentence and confiscation of the jetski, the court also awarded compensation to a number of the surviving passengers from the boat involved in the collision.

READ ALSO: After fatal tragedy, jetskis fined for sailing in Copenhagen harbour


Man admits manslaughter charge in trial over Danish jetski tragedy

A 25-year-old man has admitted to causing the death of two American students in a high-speed jetski accident in Copenhagen Harbour in May this year.

Man admits manslaughter charge in trial over Danish jetski tragedy
Tributes left near the scene of the accident in May. Photo: Ivan Riordan Boll/Polfoto/Ritzau

The man’s defence lawyer confirmed the plea at Copenhagen City Court as court proceedings over the accident began on Monday morning.

The 25-year-old is accused of negligent manslaughter under aggravating circumstances.

“My client admits that he lost control of the jetski, thereby committing negligent manslaughter,” his defence counsel Jane Ranum said.

The fatal incident, in which the two international students, 18-year-old Leah Bell from Lousiana and 21-year-old Linsey Malia from Massachusetts lost their lives, occurred on May 6th this year near the Langebro bridge in the centre of Copenhagen.

Negligent manslaughter provisions are most commonly used in Denmark in cases relating to road traffic accidents.

Seven other people are also on trial for the lesser charge of putting lives in danger by recklessly driving their jetskis on the busy Copenhagen Harbour.

All seven deny the charges against them.

According to several witness accounts, a number of jetskis were seen travelling at high speeds – estimated by different accounts at between 30-40 and 50-60 kilometres per hour – in the harbour at the time of the accident.

The maximum permitted speed is six knots, around 11 kilometres per hour.

None of the eight individuals had the necessary permits for driving jetskis in the harbour.

The 25-year-old piloted the jetski that crashed into a rented boat near the Langebro bridge, killing the two American women.

There were seven people on board the boat, which was owned by rental company Go Boat.

The seven on board were taking part in a study exchange programme, Study Abroad in Scandinavia (DIS) confirmed at the time of the accident.

A survivor of the accident has previously said that the group became scared after a jetski passed close to them. They had asked Linsey Malia, who was steering the boat, to sail to the side of the harbour just before the accident happened, Ritzau reports.

All eight jetski riders sailed to the harbour in nearby Brøndby after the accident but said they did not realise the seriousness of the incident until police arrived.

The driver of the jetski that crashed with the boat has since been remanded in police custody, partly due to previous convictions for violent behaviour and theft, according to previous reports.

A verdict is expected in the case in January. 

READ ALSO: Denmark to introduce tougher jetski rules after tragedy