Manslaughter investigation after young mother dies in riverboat crash in France

Lee Colyer

FRENCH police have launched a manslaughter investigation after Lamberhurst mother Jess Wilkes was killed in a riverboat accident.

The mother-of-one, 27, was thrown from the craft as it travelled across the Rhone river in the southern city of Avignon on Saturday night (October 21).

Ms Wilkes a PA at a London archjitects, attended Weald of Kent and Kent College in Tonbridge, and was in a group of eight returning from a dinner party when the boat hit a warning beacon. The dinner was to celebrate her boss’ birthday.

Her boyfriend Matty Melvin and another companion were both hurt in what was understood to be a routine crossing. An officer with the rescue services was reported as saying: “There was a metal post in the middle of the river to alert boats to watch out for a nearby bridge. The boat hit this and the woman was catapulted into the water.”

Local officers have started a manslaughter investigation to see if negligence played any part. Ms Wilkes’s brother, Philip Wilkes, 25, told the media that his sister was ‘larger
than life and loved by her family’.

He said the family were ‘in a weird state of shock’ and added: “We have gone through
that initial shock and tears and now we are just actually trying to deal with the reality of it.”

Meanwhile her father, Bernard Wilkes, 72, of Tunbridge Wells, said they ‘want answers’ over the death of his ‘beautiful young girl who lived life to the full’.

Ms Wilkes, who celebrated turning 27 earlier in October, had a seven-year old daughter named Alissia.

A friend wrote on Facebook that ‘no words can describe this awful pain in my heart’. Another friend said: “Jess was a wonderful mother. She was full of life and always smiling.”

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