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Monday, November 8, 1999 Published at 20:01 GMT


Families press for Marchioness inquiry

The boat sank after a collision with a dredger

Bereaved families from the Marchioness pleasure boat tragedy, which killed 51 people, are renewing their 10-year battle for a public inquiry.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott ordered an inquiry into safety on the Thames earlier this year, shortly before the 10th anniversary of the crash.

But families of those who died when the boat was involved in a collision with the dredger Bowbelle want a specific investigation into the circumstances of the disaster.

On Monday they made submissions to High Court Judge Sir Anthony Clarke, who is running the overall inquiry.

Millennium safety

The Marchioness Action Group, made up of bereaved families and survivors of the tragedy, were represented by Michael Napier, one of the solicitors who has aided the group.

[ image: A memorial to the dead was unveiled in August]
A memorial to the dead was unveiled in August
"WA number of Thames safety issues have still not been addressed," said Margaret Lockwood Smith, who lost her son Sean in the disaster.

She added: "Many organisations agree there should be one body in charge of Thames safety both on the river and along its banks."

Mindful of the huge numbers expected to crowd Thames areas for the millennium celebrations, Mr Prescott has asked Sir Anthony to make recommendations on arrangements for safety on the river by next month.

A 1992 Marine Accident Investigation Branch report concluded that human factors, natural conditions and design failings all contributed to the disaster.

Failure of the look-outs was the immediate cause.

The inquest into the deaths, in March to April 1995, returned a verdict of "unlawful killing".

The Bowbelle captain, Douglas Henderson, was tried in 1991 on a charge of failing to keep a proper look-out.

The jury failed to reach a verdict, as did another jury at a second trial. Capt Henderson was formally acquitted.

In July 1996, the Crown Prosecution Service concluded there was insufficient evidence to justify any further criminal proceedings.

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20 Aug 99 | UK
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