An awful tragedy that could of been prevented if the council had took significant measures to ensure fire safety had been carried out. Cladding that was fitted to the tower was unfortunately flammable and it funneled a fire that quickly went out of control. The residents had repeatedly expressed there concern over the safety of the building but it fell on deaf ears. Cladding that was installed had a flammable core which escalated the fire up over and around the building until it completely burnt through. Many people perished in the inferno especially people on the top floors as the fire escalated at a very fast rate. The London fire brigade could not fully extinguish the blaze as they arrived as it had rapidly spread and it raged all night as frantic people looked on, but they did save many people from the block. The inferno burnt all night and into the day as fire crew doused it down at full capacity.
The fire broke out about 12.54 am when a Hotpoint fridge failed and started a fire. The resident knocked on his neighbours doors to warn them and to tell them to leave the building. The fire was only small at this time but unfortunately made its way to the exterior of the building and set the cladding alight. The cladding had a flammable core which helped the fire to quickly escalate and creep up the side of the building. By the time the fire brigade had got to the tower the fire had severely increased in size and was impossible to extinguish. Most people were asleep at the time so did not know of the impeding danger, The stairwell quickly filled with smoke and it was difficult to get down with 0 visibility and hot smoke flame. The residents initially were told to stay in there flats as a fire safety measure as fire can be contained but unfortunately the fire had set the cladding alight. Time was critical and if you left you most probably survived but people who stayed were trapped.
As images show many residents went to there windows to show that they needed help to escape. The fire brigade did not have ladders high enough to reach all residents and unfortunately they could only save so many people because of the heat and smoke. They also complained about inadequate oxygen mask equipment and never were fully prepared for this fire similar to 911. A lot of people will never be found because of the intensity of the fire at 1000c it will be difficult for forensics to identify people because the heat cremated them and only small fragments will remain. A lot of lessons can be learnt from this tragedy and now all towers are being checked for safety. This type of cladding should not of been used over 10 floors high and questions will be asked why it was installed to a 24 floors high tower block.
Marchioness was built by Salter Brothers for Joseph Mears of Richmond in 1923. Built as a pleasure steamer she was 85 ft long and was converted to diesel power in 1952. Thames party boats owned her in 1972, and in 1982 she was one of the boats in Tidal Cruises fleet.
Boats on there way to Dunkirk in 1940 in Operation Dynamo
The Miracle of Dunkirk was the evacuation of allied soldiers during world war two from the beaches and harbour in the North of France between 26th May and 4th June 1940. The battle of France was when German forces conquered France Belgium Luxembourg and the Netherlands and many British French and Belgian soldiers were cut off and surrounded by German forces around the mid point of the six week battle of France fight. Vice AdmIral Bertram Ramsey masterminded operation dynamo from a bunker deep into the Dover cliffs. All available seaworthy craft in Kent, or the "Little Ships" as they became affectionately known, were assembled in Sheerness dockyard before making the hazardous crossing in flotillas to Dunkirk. The Marchioness was one of these boats that went to Dunkirk to rescue the stranded soldiers and get them to safety. Winston Churchill announced to the House of Commons on 4th June that 338,000 troops had been saved, despite the operation coming under attack.
On 20th August 1989 a fatal collision occured between the Marchioness and a dredger named Bowbelle. On the 19th August 1989 the Marchioness was hired for a party to celebrate the birthday of Antonio de Vasconcellos who worked in merchant banking. Photographer Agent Jonathan Phang organised the get together as he and Vasconcellos were good friends and business partners in a photographic agency. There would be a three part celebration starting with an eight person dinner in a flat on Meard street, followed by a birthday cake champagne celebration for a group of 30 people at the same address. The final stage would be an all night party on the Marchioness on the Thames with dancing and lots of music and laughter.
Meard Street in London the scene of Vasconcellos party prior to boarding the Marchioness.
The Marchioness prior to the collision.
Getting on to the Marchioness was easy, there were no tickets to present and no bouncers with lists of names, The host for the night was Antonio de Vasconcellos a charasmatic and very popular man who was a Portuguses aristocrat and only 26 years old. He wove his way through the young excited and talkative guests as he chatted and thanked them all for turning up. There were plenty of people there including Canadian Spanish French Portuguese, Italian, Chinese and American, These people mostly young and just starting out in life were a glittering crowd of Oxford and Cambridge graduates who had interests in design financing music journalism photography and the medical professions, There was certainly plenty to talk about this night in such an amazing setting to celebrate a well liked person. But then suddenly Antonio was gone he had found a quiet spot to contemplate something worrying on his mind a look of sadness could be seen on his face . His voice changed to a troubled sound he was asked by a friend what the matter was but he just hung up he would always confide in people but at that moment he could say nothing. The boat had started to sail and was about 30 minutes in, People were starting to get warmed up and were dancing to the The Hues Corporation song Rock The Boat, People shouted don't tip the boat over with a carefree and fun atitude.
The Hues Corporation - Rock The Boat - Ruud's Extended Mix, Rock The Boat was first featured on their debut album Freedom for the stallion which was released in 1973.
The Bowbelle was built in 1964 in Ailsa Shipbuilding Co. Ltd shipyards 517.
The Bowbell had a Gross registered tonnage of 1486. Tonnage: 1486 grt, It extracted sand and gravel from the seabed outside the Thames Estuary and took it upriver to its berth at Nine Elms near Battersea.
Magda Allani a survivor at a party in Cambridge in 1982 with Antonio de Vasconcellos
Douglas Duggy Henderson Captain of the Bowbell
At about 1.15am on Sunday, August 20, 1989, the dredger was sailing at speed from Nine Elms towards the Thames Barrier. Henderson called Channel 14, a VHF radio link with the Thames Barrier Navigation Centre, to announce his passage through Waterloo Bridge. The Marchioness would of been visible to the Bowbell as the light from 16 windows and her navigational lights would of created a bright glare out and across the water line. The Bowbell was heading at speed down the port side of the river heading for the second arch of Southwark bridge. But suddenly the Bowbell veered towards the central span the same arch as the captain of the Marchioness had chosen and had increased speed. The Bowbell hit the Marchioness hard it's massive anchor hanging from the side had ripped into the Marchioness's roof peeling it off like an orange. The Bowbell cut through the pleasure steamer as it did it dragged the boat down under the water. The Marchioness quickly filled with water and she capsized and her entire super structure became detached. The collision was at 1.46 am and the ship was completely immersed in 30 seconds. People had no time to react to what was going on, A lot of people in the lower decks perished as it was pitch black and panic had set in. Bowbell mounted Marchioness because of it's sheer size and pushed it under because of it's sheer weight Marchioness never stood a chance.
Many questions were raised as to why this tragedy occured, The Bowbell had a universal rule that in the event of a collision the surviving ship should drop it's anchor and help any one hurt and distressed. But this did not happen the Bowbell instead decided to sail away from the collision. The Bowbell had two 16 man lifeboats installed and one 12 man life raft and 12 flares but these were never deployed to save the drowning victims. Henderson claimed the Marchioness swerved into his path, The Bowbell had a long gash on it's side which was used as evidence to substantiate Hendersons claim of negligence on the captain of the Marchioness. It took eleven years and several independent reports commissioned by the Marchioness action group for it to be accepted that the victims were unlawfully killed.
Marchioness was actually rammed from behind by the Bowbell and then shunted across the dredgers prow causing the long gash. Henderson at the time held the lever that controlled speed to the Bowbell but was not at the wheel. The Bowbell's lookout was obstructed by a sand grader and some dredging gear blocking the view of other ships, The helmsman and Master of the Bowbell had no fear of sinking as the ship was huge and very unlikely to sink on impact. Henderson the captain was in his 30's at the time and had already been involved in a collision that June and had been dismissed from a previous post for drinking alcohol while on duty. He had drunk six pints of lager that afternoon prior to the incident and had stopped drinking at 6 pm seven hours before the Bowbell departed, he also regarded look out arrangements as adequate. Henderson was acquitted of safety charges in regard to the accident and still held his master's certificate. Able seamen who acted as look outs shouted if a problem arose as radio on board was unreliable even though they had no navigational qualifications. He could give no explanation as to why he could not see the brightly lit Marchioness as it approached from the rear, Lifebuoys were not thrown as he did not think it top priority at the time.
Tamsin Cole 24, and her boyfriend Ian Philpott, Philpott survived the accident but his girlfriend died.
Elsa Garcia another victim.
Shaun Lockwood Croft.
The Marchioness had more than 130 people on board at the time of the collision of these 51 perished.
On the 2nd January 2002 the RNLI setup 4 lifeboat stations these are Gravesend, Tower, Chiswick, and Teddington. This was done to improve river safety and improve search and rescue missions.
The Bowbell after the disaster was sold to Madeira one year later where it had a name change to Bom Rei. Another 6 years passed until March 25th 1996. On this day it split into two pieces off shore near Ponto do sol. The weather was very rough and the ship was fully loaded. It was found 6 months later 32 meters down. It is now a popular scuba diving site as the local marine life have taken up home inside and outside of it's frame.
Bowbell Wreck Of Souls.
Bowbelle, Photo taken by Drew Sutton a survivor of the Marchioness disaster.
Most of the party people were in the saloon bar at the time of the collision, 24 of the drowned victims were found below deck having been unable to escape, another 27 people who initially escaped the boat were found in the Thames over the following days.
Andrew Sutton was one of the survivors and he recounted the terrible night. Sutton was at the front of the boat and luckily managed to escape the sinking hull with his girlfriend Helen at his side. She was screaming in fear and panic barely able to stay afloat. He tried to swim away from the dredger pulling his girlfriend by the hand. All of a sudden in the frantic splashing another survivor under the water was pulling on his legs. Sutton ducked under water and saw his friend Tony holding onto his thighs, He was trying to pull himself up and stared Sutton in the face a look of sheer terror, Tony was being dragged by the current or the dredger and in an instant he was gone. Sutton knew he had to act fast the propellors of the Bowbelle were close they might get sucked into them, He decides to swim north towards the banks. He manages to remove the woolen jacket his girlfriend was wearing as it was dragging her down. The Bowbell continued on unaware even of the collision, Sutton could hear a chirping sound it was gentle and a long way off, Other people were in the water struggling to survive and air was escaping from the Marchioness from under the water fizzing to the surface like a bottle of lemonade when you open it. They were both being pushed back upstream by a strong tide that night the Thames had a 3 knot tide and even the strongest of swimmers will find it difficult to swim against even a 1 knot tide. He saw another couple in difficulties being swept upstream toward Westminster he shouted to them but they went under as there were powerful rip tides. A strange thought enters his mind on how I am seeing London at this very moment, He tries to grab onto vessels nearby but they are covered in algae and he has no grip. After 30 minutes in the water Helen was unconcious but he manages to find an orange floating object with nets attached to it, He places Helen's arms under to help keep her afloat. Luckily as he too was ready to give up a police boat saves the pair, He wakes up when a policeman stands on his hand and another is trying to resusitate Helen. A policeman remarked it look's like that one's still going to, Sutton felt rejected like he was plucked from the water as a piece of plastic a floaty thing, He believes he and his girlfriend were the last people to be picked out of the water. He was taken to St Thomas hospitable but discharged himself a few hours later.
Andrew Sutton Marchioness Survivor
Emergency services gather at Waterloo pier on the night of the disaster to rescue the survivors.
The Clarke report said: "The basic cause of the collision is clear. It was poor lookout on both vessels. Neither vessel saw the other in time to take action to avoid the collision."
July 1991, Mr Henderson acquitted after a second jury fails to reach a verdict.
Lord Clarke's report blames poor lookouts and criticises owners of both vessels; makes 30 recommendations to improve river safety.
Dr Paul Knapman was the coroner for inner West London and was directly involved with the deceased. In an enquiry overseen by Lord Justice Clark the coroner was accused of arrogance and lack of concern for relatives feelings. He admitted that 25 of the victims had had there hands cut off for identification purposes even though in most cases it was not necessary. Relatives were not informed as it would have been an extra burden to loved ones. Relatives are very angry when they discovered this, one relative of the deceased shouted in court Your mortuary is so dirty that it took four years to find a child's hands you are a butcher. One of the deceased called Elsa Garcia had her hands removed and were only discovered four years later in a refrigerator in Dr Knapmans mortuary. It was a last resort the Dr stated sometimes this measure is required if other attemps to take finger prints fail. 12 of the victims were currently waiting to be identified by there dental records but still had there hands removed. Relatives all support his resignation and urged the home secretary to suspend him.
The funeral for the Marchioness skipper Stephen Faldo in East Ham 1989.
A service of remembrance is held regularly at Southwark Cathedral in South London. It was here that the setting for the 25th anniversary of the tragedy took place. Families and survivors attended the service to remember the people that lost their lives that fateful night. The names of the dead were also read out at a lunchtime service.
A plaque of remembrance situated at Southwark Cathedral South London.
The 20th Anniversary was also held at Southwark Cathedral, Wreathes were laid upon the memorial stone. Earlier some of the bereaved watched as 51 red roses were laid out into the river Thames by a coastguard near the site of the sinking as a symbolic reminder of the terrible disaster and the loved ones who perished.
A metal plaque situated close to the disaster area.
A red rose one of 51 that were placed onto the river Thames to mark the 20th Anniversary of the loved ones that sadly lost their lives.
Many of the survivors suffer from depression and guilt. Odette Penwarden was the only survivor from a group of five and it was her idea to hire a boat for Vasconcello's party. He wanted a big party and she suggested they have it on one of the river boats as she knew Steven Faldo the Marchioness skipper. She describes how the boat tipped like a washing machine and the water came in about 1,45 am. Her foot got tangled on some cable but she managed to free herself and escaped through a broken window. It was like a champagne cork she explained everyone came up at the same time floundering after the impact. She couldn't accept her friends were dead and for a few days she only had anger as she had to deal with all the emotions while they the dead were having a party up there referring to heaven. She now suffers from vivid flashbacks and nightmares and contemplated suicide but is now mentally stronger. One of the hardest things to come to terms with she explains is you cannot help wondering what they would be doing now. There was no justice and we wont get any now she says, We all knew the Bowbelle crew had been drinking and it upsets me that none of them ever said sorry.
Compensation was very poor and some families only received enough money to cover burial costs. English law provides no compensation for fatal accidents and families had to make a civil claim. Even then families only received sums ranging from as little as £3000 to £190.000 tiny compared to the loved ones who cannot be replaced. The reason for the pitiful sums is because they were young with a full life ahead, single with no responsibilities as such had no dependants and had not established there careers at that time.
Compensation claims for fatal accidents
Although the general principles on the assessment of damages in personal injury claims apply to claims arising out of a person's death, there are some differences. For instance, unlike claims for compensation brought by a living claimant, fatal accident compensation claims are calculated at the date of death. The reason is that the person's death is considered to be the only certain event. Everything that might have happened after that date remains uncertain.
The law as it currently stands provides two possible ways to make a claim for a fatal accident resulting from another's negligence. The first action is for the deceased's personal injuries and is brought by the deceased's estate under the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1934. The second action is available to the deceased's dependants under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 and is intended to compensate the dependants for the extent to which they were dependant on the deceased.
Claims for the benefit of the deceased's dependants: Fatal Accidents Act 1976
The deceased's dependants are entitled to make a separate claim under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976. Damages under this Act are paid by the person or organisation that caused the death. In order to have a cause of action under the Act, the claimant must show that
(1) the deceased person was injured by the wrongful act of the defendant
(2) he died in consequence of such injury
(3) at the time he died he had a right to recover damages
(4) the dependants have suffered actual financial loss as a result of his death.
Because the blame is being put at both skippers that night Henderson can not be blamed entirely for the collision. If he was found guilty in court compensation claims would of been far greater but he was acquitted. It has to take a terrible tragedy for laws to change but these people were so young and had the world at there feet and it is a terrible waste. They were upper class people and no doubt had well off families, They were innocent and naive and had no idea of the dangers that faced them that night. Could they have been cursed the Bowbelle was a death ship for sure and remarkably broke into two and sank 6 years later with even more lives lost. Is this not a poignant reminder that life is so unpredictable and cruel and hard at times. Henderson no doubt will be haunted by this incident for the rest of his life and so will the survivors who struggle with guilt and denial on a daily basis. Bowbelle was destined for a watery grave as it only holds fear and anger for those that survived. Mistakes were made and people have many regrets, and the hope is this will never happen again on the river Thames or anywhere else for that matter.
The Bowbelle Wreck In Madeira
The Lite Breakfast with Jonathan Phang Host and Survivor of the Marchioness.
Phang comments on the emotional rollercoaster he has endured after the disaster, As a result my best friend died, all four members of my office staff died and so did two of the photographers on our books. I went from having the time of my life, representing Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington, to becoming an utter wreck. The guilt almost destroyed me. It still feels like yesterday and it has taken me 20 years to get my head around it. It really was time to deal with it.”
The disaster was as much about those who survived as our friends who died but I never knew how to articulate that,” says the TV presenter, who was involved in the filming of a documentary about the tragedy.
Eileen Dallaglio the Mother of Francesca Dillaglio. An aspiring Ballerina Francesca was the youngest victim aged only 19 years. Her brother Lawrence was a former England rugby captain and a retired English Rugby Union player. From 1990 to 2008 he played for the Wasps FC and London Wasps.
When the Marchioness was hit survivors were in the water for at least 15 minutes before help could arrive. At 1 45am the Hurlingham pleasure cruiser similar to Marchioness radioed for help over the marine radio frequency. The words spoken were "Wapping Police, Wapping Police emergency, pleasure boat is sunk, Cannon Street Railway Bridge, all emergency aid please. James Currie captain on duty at the time who received the message at Woolwich marine radio service misinterpretated the signal as Battersea bridge which caused confusion and sent the fire brigade boats in the wrong direction. It took 20 minutes for the police to receive the correct location and when they arrived at Blackfriars Bridge they could not find or see any survivors. Passengers on the Hurlingham managed to save 20 people out of the water, another police launch rescued a further 22 people and another saved another 20. In all 51 perished and 80 people survived. Not a single soul was found alive after a period of 45 minutes. 24 bodies were found in different sections of the Marchioness the next day and a further 27 were recovered from the river including Vasconcellos who was the last person they found.
Blackfriars Bridge London
Cannon Street Railway Bridge London
Peter Alcorn 23, Christopher Averill 20, David Ayres 29, Sophie Bennett 23, Rupert Blackburn 25, Timothy Blake 30, Jane Bourke 20, Paul Brookman 19, Michael Carew 41, Isla Carroll 22, John Clarke 31, Tamsin Cole 24, Shaun Lockwood Croft 26, Francesca Dallaglio 19, Sheila Daubeney 52, Luis de la Huerta 26, Howard Dennis 29, Lino Di Girolamo 28, Marino Drusetta 30, Paul Ellington 19, Stephen Faldo 29, Christopher Garnham 31, Michael Gatehouse 46, Jeffrey Gibbs 27, Carmella Lennon Gorman 41, Ruth Hadden 32, Guy Hallez 38, Hannah Harris 21, David Highfield 33, Lee Hunt 19, Julie Hunt 26, Julie Ibbotson 23, Karen Jarvis 28, Peter Jaye 27, Dianne Lim 25, Neville Lovelock 29, Elsa Garcia Magaldi 25, Shirleen Manning 28, Tony Lo Manyen 33, Dean Palmer 22, France Langlands-Pearce 29, Stephen Perks 23, Angela Plevey 29, Rachael Rackow 25, Simon Senior 20, Vida Shamash 21, Aziz Shamash 20, Julian Tremain 28, Antonio E Vasconcellos 26, Domingos E Vasconcellos 28, Linda Webster 27
A List Of All People That Died.
Paul Brookman 19, He was helping his friend and DJ on the night of the disaster.
Christopher Garnham 31
Julie Hunt 20, a young fashion designer.
Julie Ibbotson 23
Simon Senior 20, An aspiring Model
From left to right, Jeffrey Gibbs 27, Linda Webster 27, and Antonio E Vasconcellos 26.
Margaret Lockwood Croft is the director of the Marchioness Action Group and was the mother of Shaun Lockwood Croft. There was a strike and Shaun decided to stay in London but wanted to fly to Edinburgh to meet his girlfriend. Margaret did not know the whereabouts of her son until a friend phoned to find out if Shaun was with her, She immediately realized that Shaun was on the Marchioness.
She contacted the local police but they had no information so she decided the best thing to do would be to travel to London to find out more, Upon arriving she was told that her son had died. After leaving the station it all became too much and she nearly threw herself into the Thames but thankfully she thought about her 3 daughters and she changed her mind. She explains that Shaun had a natural confidence and was very happy being himself. Shaun himself may of had a feeling something was going to happen, Three weeks before the tragedy Shaun and his mum chatted through the night and at 5 am had breakfast, She recalls he said to her,
We all arrive with a sell-by date and it doesn’t matter how short or how long our stay is, it is how often we have touched somebody else’s heart and how often someone else has touched yours. I think it is about leaving a legacy of love
4 Months later Margaret started to clear through Shaun's things and she came across an envelope marked "To Mother in case".Shaun had written a will and the letter after their conversation. In it he said: ‘Perhaps I never told you how much I loved you. I shall always be around to look after you.’ Margaret just cried her eyes out a very poignant moment.
The first christmas after Shaun's death I bought a christmas present for him and it was not until I had got home that I realized he was not here anymore. She was never allowed to see Shaun'body, She has doubts as to Shaun's body being buried and wants the body exhumed so that a DNA sample can be carried out to prove it really is Shaun. Campaigning has given Margaret the strength to carry on.
Glen Tobin who was 31 at the time was one of the people that helped to save some of the survivors. An unemployed painter and decorator from Forest Hill south east London he was on the Hurlingham the Marchioness's sister ship at the time of the collision. He and others on that boat threw life belts and pulled survivors aboard, In total Glen and his friends saved 28 people and became known as the Hurlingham boys. The police were really slow to get there and by the time they did it was all over and done with, None of us could understand why they were trying to say it happened at Cannon Street Bridge when it was Southwark Bridge. It was like there was a cover-up going on. “I feel sorry for all the people that died and all the families and I’m angry at the police because as far as we’re concerned they did absolutely nothing.
Kiss The Pink - One Step - Performed on Top of The Pops
Tears for Fears - Head Over Heels
Jo Wells a survivor of the Marchioness was awarded £150000 and costs after being under the water for three minutes. Wells who plays the clarinet and Saxophone had toured the world with famous bands such as Tears For Fears, Kissing the Pink and the Communards. Pete Townshend described her ability to play Saxophone as exceptional and the best soprano Saxophonist I have ever heard in pop. The accident had caused her severe depression and she was binging on Whisky as a way to reduce her anxiety sense of loss and depressive moods. She could only find work as a cleaner and if she wasn't involved with the disaster she would of gone on to a successful career earning £40000 a year.
Pete Townshend - Let My Love Open The Door.
The defense argued that she was already burnt out and would unlikely have any further success and they also disputed what she actually did earn as there was no documentary proof. She beat 10000 other young musicians to win a scholarship at the royal college of music London while participating at the prestigious Chetham's music school in Manchester. She had developed post traumatic stress disorder after her cousin perished in the disaster. She also suffered from flashbacks and could not concentrate for very long, She also lost control of her lip which is essential to musicians that play brass instruments. Now she lives on income support payments but now her future is uncertain. Most of the survivors will all be affected by this tragedy in some way and only time can heal somewhat the pain and suffering this tragedy has caused.
What I find incredible is relatives had no idea there loved ones had had there hands removed by the Unhinged coroner Dr Paul Knapman, It was only when a funeral director for Simon Senior told the family that there son's hands had been cut off did they find out. Also having to be told you could not see your loved one's in death is wrong to me, Sinister as it was incompetent and insensitive families were denied access to the victims. On 22nd December 1999 the final report of the Thames Safety inquiry was submitted, It contained 44 recommendations to improve safety on the water. On 2nd January 2002 a RNLI Lifeboat service is launched on the river Thames, This was possible due to endless campaigning by Marchioness Action Group since 1990. Three boats were donated from Hants Surrey and Sussex families. On 12th March 2004 in the Lord Justice Clark's report it details reforms to the coroner system in relation to the Marchioness disaster. Work continues to remove old boats not built for tidal waters from the Thames. The Bowbelle was clearly a tidal boat and was 25 years old when it collided with the Marchioness but 7 years later it split in two off Madeira in rough weather so it could not of been structurally sound. Boats need regular maintenance and safety checks including interior and exterior checks. The Marchioness Action Group also want an annual major incident training exercise on the River Thames, Only three have been carried out over a period of 21 years, these were 2 daytime and 1 at night. Also to be one body in charge of on shore safety equipment. When the Marchioness was converted the responsible department had not looked into or considered for safety the boat as having good all round visibility from the steering position and nothing was done. So for years this boat has had poor visibility from the steering position and it was only a matter of time a question of when not if a collision would happen. The port of London Authority should have issued a general direction in 1983 requiring all vessels with limited visibility from the wheelhouse to have a lookout forward who would use an effective means of communication to contact the wheelhouse but this was not done either. If the party was organised on a day time this accident would probably never of happened but young people like the night and it must of been very tempting and fitted in with the arrangements for that day. The public were less sympathetic towards the victims compared to other disasters like Hillsborough, They viewed it as happening to a group of hooray henry's rich folk, But in true essence most were just normal people you would meet in the pub, there was a couple of rich folk some in the middle but most were actually poor.
On the search and rescue operation, the report concluded that the Metropolitan Police service "was ill-prepared for the disaster which occurred in that there was no specific contingency plan to deal with a major disaster on the river and that there was a dearth of rescue craft."
Louise Christian a solicitor acting for the victim's families said, The unlawful killing verdict was immensely dissapointing for the families but was no surprise. The families were kept in the dark about most of the circumstances pertaining and after the collision for 6 years even though the bungling CPS had this information from the very start. There was no public enquiry or inquest until 1995 and the verdict of the inquest jury meant that a successful prosecution for manslaughter could of been brought. Christian now wants all disasters to have a public inquiry as a basic statutory right and hopefully within the first year of the disaster.
In 2005 the FSA formal safety assessment highlighted six areas of improvement, The assessment recommends the enhancement of emergency evacuation plans, a review on the location of life jackets on board and a clear policy on the requirements of disabled people. 134 safety recommendations have been made as a result of numerous inquiries into the disaster.
The Marchioness sunk very quick and there was no time for people to put on life jackets but were there any on board. If so how many I dont think safety was adaquate on the Marchioness that night no life rafts or buoys to help the people.No safety instructions were given to people boarding the boat it was not organised safely.
Louise Christian Human Rights Solicitor
Jonathan Phang was alerted of the impeding danger as a photographer called Timothy Blake grabbed his hand and shouted get over to the side of the boat, The Bowbelle bow smashed into the Marchioness's windows on the port side near the back of the boat, Just before impact Phang could see two men on the bow of the bowbelle with a panic stricken look.All the glass in the side of the boat burst and I he was submerged in water in a very short time.
Mark Brewer who was helping with the disco told the court how the bowbelle smashed through the window next to where Shiela Daubeny was sitting she was one of the victims, He grabbed the hand of 20 year old Jane Bourke but was soon lost in the panic, She also perished.
Some families have expressed there dismay at the compensation payments made to the victim's families.Stephen Faldo the skipper received the largest payment of £190000 but others only received a paltry sum of £3000, Families have said payments should be consistent as all the lives lost had the same value. They had to take there cases to the court of appeal and criticised the system. Compared to todays decisions families can and do receive millions in compensation.
Taken from the national archives this chronology document was produced by the Attorney general to assist the formal investigation, it outlines several collisions the Bowbelle had before the fatal marchioness collision. On the 18/10/81 the Hurlingham sister ship was in a collision with Bowtrader. Visibility problems were also affecting the Hurlingham boat. On 26/05/82 Bowbelle makes contact with scaffolding on Cannon st bridge. On 5/06/82 Bowbelle has a near collision with ELTHAM at southwark bridge. On 9/06/83 a collision was made between the Bowbelle and Pride of Greenwich at Charing cross bridge, On 5/11/87 another collision was made between Bowbelle and Bowsprite at tower bridge, That's three collisions and one near miss in the space of 5 years which is concerning to me.
This disaster has traits of sheer bad luck on both parties, A lot of mistakes had been made, The Bowbelle was clearly a dangerous ship and it may of veered of course slightly and hit the Marchioness. It was dark and both skippers had poor visibility from their perspective lookouts, There was a considerable amount of people on board the Marchioness a lot of noise dancing and drinking and this would of definitely distracted peoples attention to the collision. Did Stephen Faldo the skipper drink alcohol that night it may be a possibility that he did.Did the marchioness have enough life jackets for each person no probably not and the recovery services were just not prepared for this scale of disaster.
Confusion and panic was high on the list that night. The Bowbelle never dropped anchor slowed down or communicate with marchioness or release life rafts jackets or boats and it had no cause for concern as a ship that size would never sink but it flattened the marchioness like a toy boat. Non swimmers would of had little chance making it back to sure without a life jacket or buoy only people who never got trapped inside good swimmers the lucky ones made it, even though Bowbelle was dry docked in Sunderland in 1989 for repairs and maintenance they may not of found any structural deficiencies things can be overlooked or missed completely. There are a lot of boats on the Thames it is a very busy river and collisions between boats is common but not this kind of disaster.
The tide was strong that night also this may of had a factor in the collision, As the collision was in the center of the river it would of been deep water, the Thames has a maximum depth of around 32 feet but only a depth of 5.9 feet at London bridge according to Thames river trust. There was nothing to hold onto and if you were lucky you may of found a floating lager keg or piece of wood. People were pulling others down in the water and it was a case of every man for themselves in some cases. Emergency services were not prepared for this scale of event, people were not aware and never explained to them where life jackets were situated or what to do in an emergency, it was not organised well in that respect,