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Water-ski champ hit wake at 100mph

A British water-ski champion died after hitting a boat's wake at more than 100mph in what a coroner ruled today was a tragic accident.

Karl Brooks, 25, from Wickford, Essex, was training on Lake Mead near Las Vegas in June 2007 when he fell from his mono-ski.

Team-mates managed to drag him to the side of the lake but he was pronounced dead at the scene having sustained serious head injuries.

Speaking outside Chelmsford Coroner's Court today, Mr Brooks' parents described their son - who was ranked third in the world in water-ski racing and was the European champion - as an "icon of the sport".

Mr Brooks, originally from Cardiff and also known as Karl Harding, was in Nevada training at the time of the accident.

The experienced racer was on a practice run close to the Hoover Dam on Lake Mead when he hit the wake of another boat, his parents said.

He would have been travelling at more than 100mph, they added

Mr Brooks fell into the water with such an impact that the helmet he was wearing was never retrieved.

Team-mates dragged him into their speedboat and took him to the side of the lake where he was pronounced dead.

A post-mortem examination found that he died of multiple blunt force injuries caused by the impact.

"In light of all the evidence, the court shall record a verdict that Karl Peter Harding, otherwise known as Karl Brooks, died as the result of an accident," coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray said at the end of a short hearing in Chelmsford.

Turning to family members, the coroner added: "He clearly had achieved so much already."

His mother Karen Brooks said she had "hundreds of medals" her son had won.

Outside the court, Mrs Brooks, 48, and her husband Martin, 47, said they continued to support the sport.

Both are accomplished water-ski racers, as are Karl's two brothers, Kurt, 20, and Scott, 16 - both members of the British racing team.

Wearing a ribbon with the slogan "Remember Karl 222" - in memory of her son and his racing number - Mrs Brooks said that at events around the world, people still talk about her son.

"Karl was such a big icon in the sport," she said, adding: "He was bigger than we thought he was."

Despite his death, the family are still very active in the water-ski racing community.

Having set up the Karl Brooks Memorial Fund, his parents also organise events in his memory.

In 2008, his parents took 13 youngsters on a ski training camp on Lake Mead - the site of the accident.

Martin Brooks said their continuation with the sport is what Karl would have wanted.

"When it all happened, I did question myself. But water-skiing is such a big part of our lives and I'm sure Karl wouldn't want us not to do it," he said.