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Last Updated: Saturday, 22 July 2006, 14:31 GMT 15:31 UK
Service for 1966 drowning victims
The remembrance service
More than 80 people attended the remembrance service
A remembrance service has taken place to mark the 40th anniversary of a boat tragedy off Gwynedd.

Fifteen people - including four children - drowned when their ferry boat hit the toll bridge at Penmaenpool, near Dolgellau.

The Prince of Wales ferry was nearing the end of its pleasure trip from Barmouth when the tragedy happened.

Wreaths were laid on behalf of Dolgellau and Barmouth town council at the service, attended by 80 people.

Thirty-nine people were on board the Prince Of Wales ferry for the eight mile (13km) trip up from Barmouth to the George III hotel on 22 July 1966.

But as the skipper tried to manoeuvre the boat to the hotel jetty the vessel was washed into the wooden toll bridge and sank.

I turned around and looked and the boat was sinking, people screaming and shouting
Rescuer Bob Jones

The passengers were thrown into the fast-running incoming tide.

Hotel and toll bridge staff tried to help but 15 people drowned.

Among the rescuers was Bob Jones, now 72, who was a barman at the George III hotel when the tragedy happened.

He is still haunted by the sight of a young girl being washed away by the strong incoming tide some 30 yards from where he was.

Mr Jones recalled how he heard a huge bang coming from the direction of the toll bridge.

Bridge supports

"I turned around and looked and the boat was sinking, people screaming and shouting.

"I waded in and managed to get two young lads out," said Mr Jones.

"I bought them ashore and as I turned to get them safe I could see this young girl on the far bank.

"Unfortunately, there was nothing I could do."

Mr Jones also said he remembered a woman desperately holding onto the toll bridge supports and she would not let go even as rescuers tried to help.

Many of the local people who went to help in the rescue are now dead and Mr Jones said he was puzzled as to why they had waited for 40 years to hold the service of remembrance.

He said he thought the drownings had not had a long-lasting effect on the community because there was a lifeboat tragedy in Cornwall a couple of days later, and then in October 1966, the Aberfan tragedy in south Wales.

Those welcoming the service included Brian and Peter Watts, from Milton Keynes, who lost their mother and father, nine-year-old sister and brother, 10, in the tragedy.

Alan Fowler, from Blackpool, was 12 at the time and was saved when he held on to some floating debris. His father was also rescued but his mother drowned.

Saturday's remembrance service was arranged by Rev Ron Rees, the Rector of Dolgellau.

He told the service: "We remember that an even greater number of people survived and today we give thanks for the work of the men and women who so gallantly battled to rescue so many from the chilly waters."


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