TWO GIRL sailing instructors who crashed their high-powered motor boats leaving a young girl brain damaged have been cleared of speeding.
Nia Jones, of Queen Street, Tongwynlais, and Elleni Morus, of Westbourne Road, Penarth, were driving rigid inflatable boats packed full of young girls when they collided in Cardiff Bay at night.
Their passengers, aged between 10 and 14, were thrown into the water and one suffered a serious brain injury.
Cardiff Crown Court heard the girls in Jones's boat urged her to go faster and she was heard saying "sod it" before accelerating.
But a jury found Jones and Morus not guilty of going too fast and failing to keep a proper lookout.
Jones and Morus, both 17 at the time, were instructors on a residential course during school holidays in 2010 when the accident happened.
They had taken the girls ice skating for a treat and were returning to their lodgings across Cardiff Bay when the two boats crashed in the dark.
Jones and Morus, who have both represented Great Britain at sailing, admitted failing to display navigation lights.
The organisers of the sailing course - Nicholas Sawyer and Cardiff Bay Yacht Club - has admitted offences in connection with the accident and breaking Health and Safety regulations.
Jones and Morus will not be sentenced for piloting their speedboats without navigation lights and were given an absolute discharge.
Judge Neil Bidder told the court: "The girls have been acquitted of wrongdoing.
"I don't see why they should have a criminal record for driving boats that they were told to drive that had no lights.
"It was not their fault that the lights were not there."
The girls, who are both now 20, sat next to each other wearing white tops in the dock when told they could walk free from court.
Judge Bidder said the sailing course organisers Nick Sawyer and Cardiff Bay Yacht Club will be sentenced next month for offences they admitted before this trial.
Speaking after the verdict, the girls' solicitor Russell Kelly, said: "The defendants are relieved that this is all over.
"They sincerely hope that those injured make a full recovery and both want to fully concentrate on their studies now.
"They are both very grateful for the support from family and legal teams during this difficult time."