Surbiton father speaks out over son's ferry death
A distraught Surbiton father whose deckhand son drowned after failing overboard from passenger ferry has expressed sadness over lack of safety regulations.
Stephen Woollacott’s 19-year-old son Ben died trying to untie mooring ropes onboard the Thames Woolwich ferry, Ernest Bevin, in August last year.
An internal investigation of safety was carried out by ferry operator Serco Limited Marine Services, in advance of a damning report by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB),
The report, published exactly a year after Ben’s funeral, said there was a “lack of suitable oversight” of the unmooring operation on board the boat.
It also identified “unseamanlike practices” onboard, including senior staff setting bad examples and the incorrect wearing of lifejackets.
Mr Woollacott, who runs cruise boat Cruise London, said the family was not pointing fingers but said it was a shame the investigation happened after his son’s death.
He has not spoken to Serco but said he planned to contact the company when he has had time to study the report in full.
He said: “I have read the report and I will take time to read it again. It says that there were shortcoming and mistakes and it is right that something has been done.
“We understand that there has been an investigation but it is a shame that had to happen after the fact.
“I have been out on boats for years and I know that accidents do happen so we are not pointing fingers.
“All the money in the world is not going to bring Ben back. The most important thing for the family is that nothing like this ever happens again.”
A spokesman for Serco said additional safety measure had been put in place to address unmooring procedure and river access.
He said: “The death of Ben Woollacott was a terrible tragedy, and our thoughts today are with his family and friends.
“He was a much liked and respected member of the close-knit team on the Woolwich Ferry.
“We now operate a safety-conscious culture and our safety systems are widely acknowledged to be some of the most rigorous on the river.
“We are absolutely committed to preventing an accident of this nature ever happening again.”