A HAMPSHIRE businessman broke down and cried as a jury cleared him of manslaughter following a fatal speedboat crash on the Solent.

Aaron Brown, 33, of Botley Road, Curdridge, was found not guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence after his friend of more than 20 years Ryan McKinlay, 36, died in the collision in June 2015 in Osborne Bay, off the Isle of Wight.

Mr Brown sobbed in the dock as he awaited the verdict and held his head in his hands as he was cleared at Winchester Crown Court.

Judge Keith Cutler, Recorder of Winchester, had said that the clearly distressed Mr Brown need not stand to hear the verdict, which was greeted with gasps from the public gallery.

The trial previously heard how Mr Brown sobbed as he was interviewed by police following Mr McKinlay’s death.

He also broken down in court several times throughout the trial.

In a statement read outside court by his counsel, Daniel Reilly, Mr Brown said: “Ryan McKinlay was a friend I’ve known for more than 20 years. Ryan’s death will haunt me for the rest of my life. But I know nothing can compare to his family’s loss.

“My thoughts are and always have been with them. Out of respect to them I will not be making any further statement.”

The trial heard that Mr Brown, chief operating officer of OneCom in Whiteley, was driving a rib boat that collided with a yacht. Mr McKinlay, a passenger, suffered fatal injuries in the collision.

The prosecution alleged Mr Brown was driving the boat too quickly and too close to the yacht.

Mr Brown had taken a group of friends and associates on a trip from Swanwick Marina on his jointly owned yacht, The True Blue.

Mr Brown and his hired skipper, Paul Carey, took turns to take the cruiser’s Williams Turbojet 325 rigid inflatable boat out of the vessel’s on-board garage.

Events took a tragic turn when Brown crashed the boat with Mr McKinlay onboard into the yacht.

The court heard that Mr Brown voluntarily attended a police interview three days later.

In the interview, he was seen sobbing uncontrollably and answered questions with no comment, and instead chose to give a statement.

The statement which was read out in court, said: “My friend Ryan McKinlay lost his life. He was one of my best friends and I have known him for over 20 years. I can’t believe he is not here and I am in shock.”

“An accident occurred when the jet came into contact with the boat. I remember being unable to breath on impact and I do not know what happened to Ryan because I did not see it.”

Mr Carey, 52, of Chatsworth Road, Southampton, was accused of driving the rib too fast in breach of merchant shipping regulations, a charge he denied. He was found not guilty and was discharged on Tuesday afternoon.