Perfect Night for a Party Becomes a Nightmare With PM-Britain-Boat, Bjt
Aug. 21, 1989
LONDON (AP) _ It was a perfect night for a party on the river, and an unusually warm night,which is probably what saved my life.
I had met with some friends and boarded the Marchioness at Charing Cross pier as guests of a friend who had chartered the boat for his birthday party.
I was standing outside on the bow, talking with my friends. We had been sailing for about 20 minutes and we were laughing at various buildings we passed, saying how awful they looked, when suddenly there was a small jolt.
The first thing that ran through my mind was that we had hit something in the river. But as I turned around I could see the enormous, looming hull of the dredger that had hit us. It was right on top of us.
As I did that, somebody else yelled, ''We're going over 3/8'' And that's exactly what it did, in a matter of seconds.
I was extremely lucky, as I was standing on the left-hand side of the bow and the boat rolled to the right, and as the boat rolled I was able to clamber over the hull and eventually found myself standing bone-dry on top of the overturned keel.
I was the only person I could see. Everybody else had disappeared under the boat, including two friends I was standing with.
I knew that my standing outside was what probably saved my life. A colder day may have driven me below deck. Those below deck on the dance floor must have been dragged down with the Marchioness.
But all of a sudden I realized that the boat was rocking back up slightly. The first thought that came to my mind was that at least the others on board are going to be able to get out now. But I realized it meant that I had to jump, which I did.
I bobbed up some yards away from the boat and discovered myself being swept along in the very strong tidal current. I realized there was no landing point nearby. I knew I couldn't afford to go with the flow, and decided to strike out for what appeared to be two moored barges and a glitter of a little patch of mud across the river.
Luckily I'm a regular swimmer. I jettisoned my glasses, decided I didn't have time to get rid of my shoes.
After what seemed like a very long time I finally hit what felt like the bottom. I stood in knee-high water for the first time, and what had been an eerie silence became the swiftly receding screams for help of the other passengers.
I then started shouting because I realized I couldn't get up the riverbank wall. Two police launches passed. I screamed. One stopped as if it had heard me, then sped off again. A man passed in a tiny skiff and didn't hear me.
By that stage I was fairly frantic. I'd been in the water 10 or 15 minutes and was getting cold.
I then saw two security guards from a building across the river running across the bridge. They finally heard my shouts or caught sight of me.
They lowered a ladder and pulled me out of the water.