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The Marchioness disaster - 25 years on

The 1989 tragedy on the River Thames claimed 51 lives and affected countless others. Among the victims were three young people from Hampshire, all destined for bright futures

 

It was in the early hours of the morning 25 years ago that the pleasure boat Marchioness sank on the River Thames, claiming the lives of 51 people.

The boat was involved in a collision with the dredger Bowbelle, near the Cannon Street railway bridge, at around 1.45am on August 20, 1989. There were a total of 131 people on board the Marchioness at the time - crew, catering staff and guests celebrating a private birthday party.

To mark the 25th anniversary of the tragic disaster, Get Hampshire pays tribute to three of the young victims, all with links to north-east Hampshire and Surrey, who lost their lives that day.

Shaun Lockwood Croft, of York Road, Aldershot, was 26 when he died. He was working for a communications company at the time of the disaster and had just been made salesman of the year. His mother, Margaret Lockwood Croft, co-founded the Marchioness Action Group in 1990 and has run the organisation for many years. She is a keen campaigner for improved river safety and a driving force behind the team attempting to find justice for the victims.

Speaking to Get Hampshire, Ms Lockwood Croft revealed the progress that has been made.

She said: “In the last 25 years we have left many legacies due to our campaigning.

“There are 43 new safety laws, with onshore marine training meetings and live disaster scenarios.

“We have cameras along the Thames and all the marine services work together in the same building.”

Yet there is still work to be done, as Ms Lockwood Croft explained.

“There should designated telephones for the coastguards and I want there to be only one body in charge of onshore safety.

“And people should have to pass an examination and basic training program before they take to the water.”

Ms Lockwood Croft retains the desire to “drag the authorities kicking and screaming into the 21st century”, which will surely see the introduction of more reforms.

“It will become the legacy for the 51 people who died,” she said.

Francesca Dallaglio, sister of former rugby player Lawrence, was just 19 when she died. Francesca had attended the Elmhurst Ballet School in Camberley and was tipped for a bright future as a dancer. Her mother, Eileen, said in 1999 that Francesca was “earmarked for a brilliant career”.

She was on the Marchioness with her boyfriend John James, who survived, and had been at the family home in Barnes, south-west London, earlier in the evening celebrating her recent graduation from ballet school and her plans to work in Austria.

Tamsin Cole, of Cyprus Drive, in Fleet, was 24 when she lost her life in the disaster.

Her partner, Iain Philpott, was also on the boat and survived. He is a co-chair of Disaster Action, a charity founded in 1991 by survivors and bereaved people to promote a “health and safety culture” and offer support to those affected by disaster. Speaking in 2011, Mr Philpott said he “took quite a public role in relation to the Marchioness” due to a determination “that something like that shouldn’t happen again”.

The reforms provide a small measure of consolation for those affected by the Marchioness tragedy, a true legacy after 25 years of hurt.

 
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