Trainee Volunteer Doctor Suffered Horrific Leg Injury In Boating Accident

Expert Travel Lawyers Secure Substantial Six-Figure Settlement


A trainee gynaecologist who suffered horrendous leg injuries after a boating accident crushed her leg whilst she was volunteering has spoken of her relief after expert international lawyers at Irwin Mitchell secured her a settlement for her serious injury and loss of earnings.

Raina Brethouwer was part of a group carrying out research dives on coral reefs in Bloody Bay in Tobago in August 2009 when her left leg got stuck between the sand and the dive boat as she walked tried to board it on the beach, causing her skin to be scraped down to the bone.

After facing months of treatment and being forced to change her career plans as  the crush injuries have left her in permanent pain and with restricted movement, the 30-year-old instructed international travel law experts at Irwin Mitchell to investigate the health and safety procedures implemented by the UK organiser of the expedition  Coral Cay Conservation Limited.

Following extensive investigations by Irwin Mitchell, health and safety failings on the part of the company were alleged, including:

  • Allowed a boat to be used without an anchor;
  • Failed to ensure that the boat was properly equipped and in good working order;
  • Allowed Raina to embark on the boat, which did not have an anchor and which was not in good working order;
  • Failed to take any or any adequate steps to ensure that all equipment and facilities provided for Raina’s use were properly maintained.

Despite strenuous denial of liability from the UK-based company, Irwin Mitchell has now secured her a substantial undisclosed six-figure settlement to provide Raina and provide financial security for her in the future.

Expert Opinion
“This was a horrific accident involving a young woman volunteer who was about to embark on a long and successful career as a gynaecologist and has had to change her career path.

“We were disappointed that, throughout the legal proceedings, Coral Cay Conservation refused to accept responsibility for the injuries that Raina suffered, despite the flaws in the health and safety procedures. There were also complicated issues as to the law that should be applied to the claim.

“We are pleased that we have secured a settlement for Raina to help her face the future with more certainty. She has been very determined and courageous throughout her ordeal.

“I hope that as a result of this legal action, changes will be made by Coral Cay Conservation in terms of their health and safety policies to help prevent any other volunteers suffering from serious injuries abroad.”
Philip Banks, Partner

In 2009 the young medic had completed her degree to become a doctor and, before beginning the next stage of her qualifications, she decided to do some volunteering work abroad and travelled to Trinidad and Tobago to work with the Coral Cay Conversation Limited project for a diving expedition.

As a boat came to collect the divers, Raina was walking through the sea towards it when it was hit by a series of waves.  Her left foot became stuck between the sand and the boat crushing her leg. 

Over the course of just a few days, Raina had multiple operations on her leg to clean her wounds and remove rotten skin in a hospital in Tobago. She was later flown back to her home city of Amsterdam, Holland where she had further surgery to try and relive her pain.

However she was told by medics that her injury had caused severe muscle wastage and nerve damage and the pain she experiences daily will be permanent.

Raina, who lives in Amsterdam, said: “The accident has had such a huge impact on my life, I suffered horrific injuries to my leg and had to have operations and intensive physiotherapy to help with my recovery.

“I joined the initiative in Trinidad and Tobago as a break from my studies before I started my next qualification, but instead I have had to change my career Plan.  I am still in pain everyday but am determined to lead as full a life as possible.  I hope that my story will alert others to the potential damages of volunteering for projects abroad when there are not proper health and safety procedures in place.

“I am relieved that the case has now come to a close and with the help from my legal team at Irwin Mitchell and my Dutch lawyer, Antionette Collingnon, I have now received a settlement for the ordeal that I have suffered over the last five years which at least means I have some financial stability for the future.”

If you or a loved one has suffered a serious injury, our specialist personal injury claims team could help you secure compensation. See our Serious Injury Claims page for more information.