The Tragic Death Of Kirsty MacColl

Kirsty MacColl's star was on the rise at the time of her tragic death on December 18, 2000, aged just 41. Per Alix Kirsta, the British singer was achieving new heights of fame after an 18-month-long creative burst in which she worked continuously and released her critically acclaimed fifth solo album, "Tropical Brainstorm." At the time of its composition, MacColl had spent an extended period of time living in Cuba, a country she loved, with the music of the island exerting a strong influence on her writing. Weeks before her death, she had worked on radio series for the BBC exploring the music and culture of the island, according to the Kirsty MacColl fan website. "Every hour in Havana was precious, but Kirsty knew how to work hard and relax on the road," said the series' producer, John Leonard, per the same source, and with work wrapping up at the start of December MacColl decided to travel with two teenage sons to Mexico, and introduce them to the joys of scuba diving, another of MacColl's passions.

According to Rock and Roll Paradise, MacColl was in the sea off the coast of the island of Cozumel with her sons and a diving instructor, when the unthinkable happened: despite being in a supposedly safe "swimmers only" area, MacColl was struck and killed by a 31-foot powerboat, in front of her children.

The aftermath of Kirsty MacColl's death

The outpouring of grief from family, friends, colleagues, and fans in the aftermath of Kirsty MacColl's death was enormous, with the passing of the singer of "Fairytale of New York" — considered by many to be one of the greatest holidays songs, especially in the British Isles — just before Christmas making her death especially heart-rending. "We are absolutely distraught," said MacColl's manager, Kevin Nixon, per The Independent. "I was personally immensely proud to be her manager after being a fan for so many years before that."

But the heartache was set to increase in the weeks and months following MacColl's death, as the circumstances of the accident were clouded by what many saw to be a concerted attempt at a cover-up by those responsible. As noted by The Guardian, the boat that killed MacColl was owned by Guillermo González Nova, a multimillionaire Mexican businessman, who was onboard the vessel at the time of the accident with members of his family and a number of employees. After the accident, the Nova family claimed that blame for MacColl's death lay with José Cen Yam, a young deckhand whom they claimed was in control of the vessel at the time. The family claimed that the vessel was traveling at a rate of one knot, and that it struck MacColl in an unrestricted area where such boats were legally permitted.

The suspected cover-up after the death of Kirsty MacColl

Those grieving the loss of Kirsty MacColl were aghast following the sentencing of José Cen Yam in March 2003, when the deckhand blamed for MacColl's death was allowed to pay a fine of 1,034 pesos ($90) to avoid serving the three-year prison term that had been handed down to him. According to Alix Kirsta, MacColl's mother, Jean Newlove, described the pain at what she felt was a miscarriage of justice by the Mexican courts. "I was sickened, the boys dumbfounded. Is £61 [$90] really what the authorities consider my daughter's life to be worth?"

Newlove, described the holes in the story of the accident as told by the Nova family and José Cen Yam (per Alix Kirsta): "Kirsty was an experienced diver. She had taken courses and would not go out without a dependable guide. Most of all, she would never have done anything reckless that might endanger the boys. It was surprising that this wealthy Mexican would allow his powerful, valuable boat to be driven by an inexperienced deckhand, especially with a small grandchild on board."

According to The Guardian, Newlove later spearheaded the fan-funded Justice for Kirsty campaign, which alleged that Cen Yam had purposefully taken the blame for the accident to protect the Nova family in exchange for cash and a luxury house on Cozumel. However, in 2009, it was reported that Newlove had officially ended the campaign. "There have been lots of suspicious and dubious things about the case, but we have no proof that González Nova used his influence to get decisions that favored him," said the lawyer representing the MacColl family.