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Thursday, August 20, 1998 Published at 16:05 GMT 17:05 UK


Tributes for canal boat victims

The victims were on a boating holiday

An investigation is being held into the deaths in a canal boat accident in the Yorkshire Dales of four people with learning disabilities.

Police named the victims as:

  • Beverley Wilson, 33, of Abbey Road, Barrow
  • John McHill, 49, of Yewdale Avenue, Barrow
  • Eric Jones, 43, of Granville Street, Barrow
  • Peter Burgess, age not known, of Thornton Park, Dalton-in-Furness.

The job of finding out what happened begins: The BBC's Andrew Shaw reports
The accident happened on Wednesday on the Leeds Liverpool canal at Gargrave, near Skipton, North Yorkshire. The four people who died were on a boating holiday being looked after by four care workers from the Mill Lane centre for people with special needs in Cumbria.

The inquiry into the accident is being held by the Health and Safety Executive and the local council.

[ image: Police believe the boat was snagged on lock gates as the lock was emptied of water]
Police believe the boat was snagged on lock gates as the lock was emptied of water
British Waterways, which operates the UK's canal network, have also launched an investigation.

They said in a statement: "We offer our condolences to the families, friends and carers of those who lost their lives in the tragic accident."

Police believe the front of the narrow-boat snagged on lock gates as the lock was being emptied of water, and sank when the gates were re-opened.

The care workers were on lock duty at the side of the canal and dived in to try to save the victims.

Police are working on the theory that the deaths were a tragic accident and have interviewed the carers, as well as a family on another boat at the scene of the accident.

Tributes for dead

Mike Siegal: "The carers are deeply upset"
The Director of Social Services for Cumbria County Council, Mike Siegal, paid tribute to the four people who died.

"Eric Jones was a cheerful, very sociable man who loved his cigarettes and his pints," Mr Siegal said.

"He was a friend to everyone he worked with.

"Beverley Wilson was an outgoing young lady with a brilliant sense of humour.

"Peter Burgess was an active member of the workforce at Chatsworth Crafts, which is Mill Lane's work and craft unit.

"John McHill was a popular member of a small team of people at Chatsworth Crafts, working on a light industrial contract.

"He was a quiet man with a great sense of fun."

Richard Bradburn, owner of Silsden Boats which hired the holiday narrow boat, said: "Obviously we regret everything that happened. We knew the people on the boat.

"The carers have been coming here twice a year since I have been here which is four years."

He added: "We are quite happy that there was nothing wrong with the boat."

Boy praised

A 15-year-old boy on the second boat was praised for his "superhuman" efforts in trying to save the four victims.

He dived in three times with his father as the boat sank.

The two boats are now to be removed by crane to check for damage and clues as to what happened.

[ image: The lock has been drained while investigations continue]
The lock has been drained while investigations continue
Stuart Stoney, North Yorkshire Fire Service Assistant Divisional Officer, said of the accident: "Crews donned breathing apparatus, entered the barge and located a further casualty approximately halfway down.

"It took approximately 30 minutes from starting to the doctor making the decision at the scene about the state of the casualties.

"I believe it was a tragic accident."

A spokesman for the north west region of British Waterways said: "We want to know what has happened to see if there are things we can improve, but we would be very surprised if there was anything that wasn't acceptable."

He added that people were always given instructions about using hireboats and locks before they took the craft away.

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