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Wednesday, 4 October, 2000, 19:15 GMT 20:15 UK
Survivors relive Marchioness sinking
Marchioness passenger boat
51 people lost their lives in the Marchioness disaster
Survivors of the Marchioness riverboat disaster have spoken of the terrifying moments when the pleasureboat collided with a dredger and sank in the River Thames.

The two men were among 80 who survived the tragedy early on August 20, 1989, which left 51 party-goers dead.

When I came up the boat had been pushed under water. There was no Marchioness

Survivor Jonathan Davies

The public inquiry into the disaster also heard on Wednesday that the captain of the dredger, Bowbelle, was involved in two later accidents.

Captain Douglas Henderson had already admitted he had spent the afternoon drinking before starting work.

Final seconds

Survivors Edward Mitchell and Jonathan Davies spoke of their experiences of the final seconds on board the London riverboat.

Mr Mitchell said they saw the Bowbelle dredger only seconds before it collided with the Marchioness, turning the boat across the bow.

The Bowbelle before the collision
The Bowbelle's skipper Douglas Henderson was involved in later accidents
"On the second impact the Marchioness tipped right over on her starboard side and sank very quickly," he said.

"I didn't even have time to draw a breath from the time of the second impact to the time we were under water.

"I grabbed onto the bar rail and as the boat sank the bar rail broke and I ended upside down at the bar."


Mr Mitchell said the complete darkness was broken by the noise of the propeller and grinding, scraping sounds.

"I was trying to get to the surface but I kept hitting a solid surface," he said.

"She had turned completely over and I was hitting the floor. I remember thinking I was not going to get out, that it was all over."

Mr Davies told the hearing, which was ordered by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, that he had been drinking in the wheelhouse of the Marchioness on the night of the tragedy.

"The next thing I can remember is the floor starting to slope away to the back of the boat and I steadied myself in the door frame," he said.

Other accidents

Mr Davies said the chairs started to slide across the room and he dived into the water.

"My head went under water and when I came up the boat had been pushed under water," he said. "There was no Marchioness."

Mr Davies said he called out for the people he had been drinking with and managed to pull himself and a few others onto a life preserver.

Earlier on Wednesday, the inquiry heard that the Bowbelle's captain Douglas Henderson was involved in two later accidents and had disciplinary action taken against him in 1992 by the company that owned the vessel.

The inquiry, presided over by Lord Justice Clarke, continues on Thursday.

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