Accident at Sunbury Sluices (non-tidal Thames, UK) on 21 Feb

Accident at Sunbury Sluices (non-tidal Thames, UK) on 21 Feb

Post by Carl » Sun, 24 Feb 2013 08:45:49


https://maps.google.co.uk/maps/myplaces?ll=51.400877,-0.413221&spn=0....

Into these sluices yesterday went a schoolboy octuple.

I've just been shown a photo, taken from the south (Surrey) bank, which
shows only the bow, including bow's strokeside rigger and 1 scull,
sticking out above the water at a jaunty 30 degrees to the water
surface.  The rest of the boat is submerged, rammed well into the 6th
sluice aperture from the north bank.

I understand, subject to correction, that one of the J14/15 boys in that
boat was swept right through one of those sluices &, with extraordinary
luck, survived.  I don't know if he was in any way injured.

I understand that the coaching launch was also involved and wrecked.

Bits of boats were reported still drifting past a point 4km down river
that same evening.

The Thames was in spate on Thursday.  While it is falling day by day, it
is still moving swiftly this evening.  I understand that the photo shown
to me is in wider circulation.  It indicates a very swift flow at that
time, with a considerable drop in water level between the flow passing
into the sluices & the relatively static waters of Sunbury lock cut.

I understand the frustration of clubs & crews, the river having almost
entirely unrowable in this area since before Christmas.  Rowing is
important to us all, but not important enough to take the chance of this
kind of event.

Carl
--
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     Fine Small-Boats/AeRoWing Low-drag Riggers/Advanced Accessories
Write:   Harris Boatyard, Laleham Reach, Chertsey KT16 8RP, UK
Find:    tinyurl.com/2tqujf


 
 
 

Accident at Sunbury Sluices (non-tidal Thames, UK) on 21 Feb

Post by Carl » Sun, 24 Feb 2013 21:10:21


Quote:
> https://maps.google.co.uk/maps/myplaces?ll=51.400877,-0.413221&spn=0....

> Into these sluices yesterday went a schoolboy octuple.

> I've just been shown a photo, taken from the south (Surrey) bank, which
> shows only the bow, including bow's strokeside rigger and 1 scull,
> sticking out above the water at a jaunty 30 degrees to the water
> surface.  The rest of the boat is submerged, rammed well into the 6th
> sluice aperture from the north bank.

> I understand, subject to correction, that one of the J14/15 boys in that
> boat was swept right through one of those sluices &, with extraordinary
> luck, survived.  I don't know if he was in any way injured.

> I understand that the coaching launch was also involved and wrecked.

> Bits of boats were reported still drifting past a point 4km down river
> that same evening.

> The Thames was in spate on Thursday.  While it is falling day by day, it
> is still moving swiftly this evening.  I understand that the photo shown
> to me is in wider circulation.  It indicates a very swift flow at that
> time, with a considerable drop in water level between the flow passing
> into the sluices & the relatively static waters of Sunbury lock cut.

> I understand the frustration of clubs & crews, the river having almost
> entirely unrowable in this area since before Christmas.  Rowing is
> important to us all, but not important enough to take the chance of this
> kind of event.

> Carl

To add further relevant information:
1. The water temperature in the relevant reach of the Thames today (less
than 48 hours after this accident), is 4.8C/40.6F
2. The flow is sufficiently swift for club on the same stretch as our
workshops to have cancelled the Head race planned for this weekend.

I have discussed this incident with people who work on the river and I
would judge to be real watermen.  They are shocked.  As they and I
agree, water is inherently dangerous: what keeps you safe is a proper
understanding of those dangers, a grasp of what can happen if you get
something wrong, an appreciation of how water moves and moves everything
in & upon it, & a refusal to take unnecessary chances.

It seems a fair surmise that, starting Thursday evening, we could all
too easily have been inundated with news media reports & recriminations
over the deaths of 9 "tragic" youngsters.  "How could this happen"
they'd have screamed at us (because that kind of noise pays their
wages).  All too easily at present, is the only honest answer.
Fortunately no one died, so I rather fear that, led as ever by British
Rowing, the sport will yet again seek to gloss it over and to bury this
incident.  As with a spate of recent *** incidents, including one
causing injury, on this stretch of the river

The point about near disasters is that we should try to learn from them.
  Then maybe we won't repeat them.  All recent history shows that in
rowing we prefer to blame the victims, hide the facts, to pretend that
what happened was an unpredictable "one-off" event which no one could
have anticipated, to "keep it all within the family", to attempt to
shoot the messenger &, worst of all, deliberately to avoid learning the
lessons so expensively provided.

Carl

--
Carl Douglas Racing Shells        -
     Fine Small-Boats/AeRoWing Low-drag Riggers/Advanced Accessories
Write:   Harris Boatyard, Laleham Reach, Chertsey KT16 8RP, UK
Find:    tinyurl.com/2tqujf



 
 
 

Accident at Sunbury Sluices (non-tidal Thames, UK) on 21 Feb

Post by davies... » Tue, 26 Feb 2013 19:05:06

Quote:


> > https://maps.google.co.uk/maps/myplaces?ll=51.400877,-0.413221&spn=0....

> > Into these sluices yesterday went a schoolboy octuple.

> > I've just been shown a photo, taken from the south (Surrey) bank, which

> > shows only the bow, including bow's strokeside rigger and 1 scull,

> > sticking out above the water at a jaunty 30 degrees to the water

> > surface.  The rest of the boat is submerged, rammed well into the 6th

> > sluice aperture from the north bank.

> > I understand, subject to correction, that one of the J14/15 boys in that

> > boat was swept right through one of those sluices &, with extraordinary

> > luck, survived.  I don't know if he was in any way injured.

> > I understand that the coaching launch was also involved and wrecked.

> > Bits of boats were reported still drifting past a point 4km down river

> > that same evening.

> > The Thames was in spate on Thursday.  While it is falling day by day, it

> > is still moving swiftly this evening.  I understand that the photo shown

> > to me is in wider circulation.  It indicates a very swift flow at that

> > time, with a considerable drop in water level between the flow passing

> > into the sluices & the relatively static waters of Sunbury lock cut.

> > I understand the frustration of clubs & crews, the river having almost

> > entirely unrowable in this area since before Christmas.  Rowing is

> > important to us all, but not important enough to take the chance of this

> > kind of event.

> > Carl

> To add further relevant information:

> 1. The water temperature in the relevant reach of the Thames today (less

> than 48 hours after this accident), is 4.8C/40.6F

> 2. The flow is sufficiently swift for club on the same stretch as our

> workshops to have cancelled the Head race planned for this weekend.

> I have discussed this incident with people who work on the river and I

> would judge to be real watermen.  They are shocked.  As they and I

> agree, water is inherently dangerous: what keeps you safe is a proper

> understanding of those dangers, a grasp of what can happen if you get

> something wrong, an appreciation of how water moves and moves everything

> in & upon it, & a refusal to take unnecessary chances.

> It seems a fair surmise that, starting Thursday evening, we could all

> too easily have been inundated with news media reports & recriminations

> over the deaths of 9 "tragic" youngsters.  "How could this happen"

> they'd have screamed at us (because that kind of noise pays their

> wages).  All too easily at present, is the only honest answer.

> Fortunately no one died, so I rather fear that, led as ever by British

> Rowing, the sport will yet again seek to gloss it over and to bury this

> incident.  As with a spate of recent *** incidents, including one

> causing injury, on this stretch of the river

> The point about near disasters is that we should try to learn from them.

>   Then maybe we won't repeat them.  All recent history shows that in

> rowing we prefer to blame the victims, hide the facts, to pretend that

> what happened was an unpredictable "one-off" event which no one could

> have anticipated, to "keep it all within the family", to attempt to

> shoot the messenger &, worst of all, deliberately to avoid learning the

> lessons so expensively provided.

> Carl

> --

> Carl Douglas Racing Shells        -

>      Fine Small-Boats/AeRoWing Low-drag Riggers/Advanced Accessories

> Write:   Harris Boatyard, Laleham Reach, Chertsey KT16 8RP, UK

> Find:    tinyurl.com/2tqujf




You may know Carl that this sluice is preceded by a smaller weir upstream, just down and across the river from Walton RC. So the stream is split between the 2 drops (and the small weir at Sunbury Lock that is dry most of the time).

By way of further information, I understand that the EA had closed the smaller weir upstream of where the accident happened, so the vast bulk of the stream was going through the main sluice. I don't know whether or to what extent they had broadcast this fact, but this may well have contributed to the accident.

However, this is not to say that this is in any way mitigating. The general consensus at Walton at the weekend was 'What the heck were J14s doing out in that stream?'.

On a side note:
We also had an interesting discussion about the role of launches. This crew had a coaching/safety launch, and St George's College have developed a habit of having a high ratio of launches/crew (to the detriment of other river users IMHO). However it is also a stretch of river that lends itself perfectly to coaching from the bank. We believe a better setup would be to have stationary launches positioned at regular intervals & known pinch points for safety purposes, with coaches on bikes using the towpath for crew instruction.
I would be interested to hear from anyone who uses such a system.

 
 
 

Accident at Sunbury Sluices (non-tidal Thames, UK) on 21 Feb

Post by Carl » Tue, 26 Feb 2013 22:50:26


Quote:


>>> https://maps.google.co.uk/maps/myplaces?ll=51.400877,-0.413221&spn=0....

>>> Into these sluices yesterday went a schoolboy octuple.

>>> I've just been shown a photo, taken from the south (Surrey) bank, which

>>> shows only the bow, including bow's strokeside rigger and 1 scull,

>>> sticking out above the water at a jaunty 30 degrees to the water

>>> surface.  The rest of the boat is submerged, rammed well into the 6th

>>> sluice aperture from the north bank.

>>> I understand, subject to correction, that one of the J14/15 boys in that

>>> boat was swept right through one of those sluices &, with extraordinary

>>> luck, survived.  I don't know if he was in any way injured.

>>> I understand that the coaching launch was also involved and wrecked.

>>> Bits of boats were reported still drifting past a point 4km down river

>>> that same evening.

>>> The Thames was in spate on Thursday.  While it is falling day by day, it

>>> is still moving swiftly this evening.  I understand that the photo shown

>>> to me is in wider circulation.  It indicates a very swift flow at that

>>> time, with a considerable drop in water level between the flow passing

>>> into the sluices & the relatively static waters of Sunbury lock cut.

>>> I understand the frustration of clubs & crews, the river having almost

>>> entirely unrowable in this area since before Christmas.  Rowing is

>>> important to us all, but not important enough to take the chance of this

>>> kind of event.

>>> Carl

>> To add further relevant information:

>> 1. The water temperature in the relevant reach of the Thames today (less

>> than 48 hours after this accident), is 4.8C/40.6F

>> 2. The flow is sufficiently swift for club on the same stretch as our

>> workshops to have cancelled the Head race planned for this weekend.

>> I have discussed this incident with people who work on the river and I

>> would judge to be real watermen.  They are shocked.  As they and I

>> agree, water is inherently dangerous: what keeps you safe is a proper

>> understanding of those dangers, a grasp of what can happen if you get

>> something wrong, an appreciation of how water moves and moves everything

>> in & upon it, & a refusal to take unnecessary chances.

>> It seems a fair surmise that, starting Thursday evening, we could all

>> too easily have been inundated with news media reports & recriminations

>> over the deaths of 9 "tragic" youngsters.  "How could this happen"

>> they'd have screamed at us (because that kind of noise pays their

>> wages).  All too easily at present, is the only honest answer.

>> Fortunately no one died, so I rather fear that, led as ever by British

>> Rowing, the sport will yet again seek to gloss it over and to bury this

>> incident.  As with a spate of recent *** incidents, including one

>> causing injury, on this stretch of the river

>> The point about near disasters is that we should try to learn from them.

>>    Then maybe we won't repeat them.  All recent history shows that in

>> rowing we prefer to blame the victims, hide the facts, to pretend that

>> what happened was an unpredictable "one-off" event which no one could

>> have anticipated, to "keep it all within the family", to attempt to

>> shoot the messenger &, worst of all, deliberately to avoid learning the

>> lessons so expensively provided.

>> Carl

>> --

>> Carl Douglas Racing Shells        -

>>       Fine Small-Boats/AeRoWing Low-drag Riggers/Advanced Accessories

>> Write:   Harris Boatyard, Laleham Reach, Chertsey KT16 8RP, UK

>> Find:    tinyurl.com/2tqujf



> You may know Carl that this sluice is preceded by a smaller weir upstream, just down and across the river from Walton RC. So the stream is split between the 2 drops (and the small weir at Sunbury Lock that is dry most of the time).

> By way of further information, I understand that the EA had closed the smaller weir upstream of where the accident happened, so the vast bulk of the stream was going through the main sluice. I don't know whether or to what extent they had broadcast this fact, but this may well have contributed to the accident.

> However, this is not to say that this is in any way mitigating. The general consensus at Walton at the weekend was 'What the heck were J14s doing out in that stream?'.

> On a side note:
> We also had an interesting discussion about the role of launches. This crew had a coaching/safety launch, and St George's College have developed a habit of having a high ratio of launches/crew (to the detriment of other river users IMHO). However it is also a stretch of river that lends itself perfectly to coaching from the bank. We believe a better setup would be to have stationary launches positioned at regular intervals & known pinch points for safety purposes, with coaches on bikes using the towpath for crew instruction.
> I would be interested to hear from anyone who uses such a system.

In fact there are 3 sets of sluices along the N bank of the river
between the locality of the rowing club and the start of the lock cut.

The 2 upstream sets of sluices siphon off some of the flow and in
themselves can be significant hazards, as anyone boating on that stretch
well knows.

By far the largest flow in times of flood is always through the 3r
sluice/weir combination.  At the top of the lock cut this has a >200ft
long weir as well as its 7 rising sector sluice gates.  Obviously that
weir is normally dry - it acts as an over-spill weir when the flows are
extreme, as they were last week, resulting in serious flows in that
region.  If in doubt, you will see a very similar situation in that
Google Maps link I gave earlier.  It was this, the largest sluice/weir
combination, which swallowed this octuple.

Question #1 must be: "What was a junior octuple (the most unwieldy of
all combinations, IMHO) doing so far down stream in those conditions?"

Now consider this report, just forwarded to me:
www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/s/2129643_st_georges_college_rowers_rescued_...

I am utterly shocked - unable to find suitable words - by the school
head's dismissive final quote.  It was in an all too similar "minor
incident" that 3 *** members of the local Staines BC died ~40 years ago.

Carl

--
Carl Douglas Racing Shells        -
     Fine Small-Boats/AeRoWing Low-drag Riggers/Advanced Accessories
Write:   Harris Boatyard, Laleham Reach, Chertsey KT16 8RP, UK
Find:    tinyurl.com/2tqujf


 
 
 

Accident at Sunbury Sluices (non-tidal Thames, UK) on 21 Feb

Post by coac » Tue, 26 Feb 2013 23:24:24

Having separate safety cover in addition to that which can be provided by coaches would be a good idea. However, to work, an agreement would need to be reached between all the clubs/ users of a particular stretch of river or lake. Knowing how well the rowing community communicates and shares information I can see this as a stumbling block.

Where there is only one club using a particular stretch of river, that club can accept its responsibility to its members and try to find volunteers, in addition to the coaches to drive safety launches.

However, to use the Walton reach as an example, does a volunteer from Walton RC who has given up his time to cover a training period for his club juniors then have a duty of care to remain on the river because there is a junior crew from Weybridge also training on the same reach?

Could we end up with a situation where, at a particular pinch point, there are three of four launches, one form each club?

I can see that the regional Water safety advisor is going to have some work to do.

For myself, I shall take the matter up at National Coaches Committee meeting that takes place in ten days time to seek clarification as to what duty of care a coach might have to rowers who are not under his/her direct control.


Quote:


> > > https://maps.google.co.uk/maps/myplaces?ll=51.400877,-0.413221&spn=0....

> > > Into these sluices yesterday went a schoolboy octuple.

> > > I've just been shown a photo, taken from the south (Surrey) bank, which

> > > shows only the bow, including bow's strokeside rigger and 1 scull,

> > > sticking out above the water at a jaunty 30 degrees to the water

> > > surface.  The rest of the boat is submerged, rammed well into the 6th

> > > sluice aperture from the north bank.

> > > I understand, subject to correction, that one of the J14/15 boys in that

> > > boat was swept right through one of those sluices &, with extraordinary

> > > luck, survived.  I don't know if he was in any way injured.

> > > I understand that the coaching launch was also involved and wrecked.

> > > Bits of boats were reported still drifting past a point 4km down river

> > > that same evening.

> > > The Thames was in spate on Thursday.  While it is falling day by day, it

> > > is still moving swiftly this evening.  I understand that the photo shown

> > > to me is in wider circulation.  It indicates a very swift flow at that

> > > time, with a considerable drop in water level between the flow passing

> > > into the sluices & the relatively static waters of Sunbury lock cut.

> > > I understand the frustration of clubs & crews, the river having almost

> > > entirely unrowable in this area since before Christmas.  Rowing is

> > > important to us all, but not important enough to take the chance of this

> > > kind of event.

> > > Carl

> > To add further relevant information:

> > 1. The water temperature in the relevant reach of the Thames today (less

> > than 48 hours after this accident), is 4.8C/40.6F

> > 2. The flow is sufficiently swift for club on the same stretch as our

> > workshops to have cancelled the Head race planned for this weekend.

> > I have discussed this incident with people who work on the river and I

> > would judge to be real watermen.  They are shocked.  As they and I

> > agree, water is inherently dangerous: what keeps you safe is a proper

> > understanding of those dangers, a grasp of what can happen if you get

> > something wrong, an appreciation of how water moves and moves everything

> > in & upon it, & a refusal to take unnecessary chances.

> > It seems a fair surmise that, starting Thursday evening, we could all

> > too easily have been inundated with news media reports & recriminations

> > over the deaths of 9 "tragic" youngsters.  "How could this happen"

> > they'd have screamed at us (because that kind of noise pays their

> > wages).  All too easily at present, is the only honest answer.

> > Fortunately no one died, so I rather fear that, led as ever by British

> > Rowing, the sport will yet again seek to gloss it over and to bury this

> > incident.  As with a spate of recent *** incidents, including one

> > causing injury, on this stretch of the river

> > The point about near disasters is that we should try to learn from them.

> >   Then maybe we won't repeat them.  All recent history shows that in

> > rowing we prefer to blame the victims, hide the facts, to pretend that

> > what happened was an unpredictable "one-off" event which no one could

> > have anticipated, to "keep it all within the family", to attempt to

> > shoot the messenger &, worst of all, deliberately to avoid learning the

> > lessons so expensively provided.

> > Carl

> > --

> > Carl Douglas Racing Shells        -

> >      Fine Small-Boats/AeRoWing Low-drag Riggers/Advanced Accessories

> > Write:   Harris Boatyard, Laleham Reach, Chertsey KT16 8RP, UK

> > Find:    tinyurl.com/2tqujf



> You may know Carl that this sluice is preceded by a smaller weir upstream, just down and across the river from Walton RC. So the stream is split between the 2 drops (and the small weir at Sunbury Lock that is dry most of the time).

> By way of further information, I understand that the EA had closed the smaller weir upstream of where the accident happened, so the vast bulk of the stream was going through the main sluice. I don't know whether or to what extent they had broadcast this fact, but this may well have contributed to the accident.

> However, this is not to say that this is in any way mitigating. The general consensus at Walton at the weekend was 'What the heck were J14s doing out in that stream?'.

> On a side note:

> We also had an interesting discussion about the role of launches. This crew had a coaching/safety launch, and St George's College have developed a habit of having a high ratio of launches/crew (to the detriment of other river users IMHO). However it is also a stretch of river that lends itself perfectly to coaching from the bank. We believe a better setup would be to have stationary launches positioned at regular intervals & known pinch points for safety purposes, with coaches on bikes using the towpath for crew instruction.

> I would be interested to hear from anyone who uses such a system.

 
 
 

Accident at Sunbury Sluices (non-tidal Thames, UK) on 21 Feb

Post by davies... » Wed, 27 Feb 2013 00:58:34

Good points. I had envisaged each club would arrange their own safety cover times. In reality, on our stretch it would only be Walton and Weybridge that might end up doubling up, since St George's College tend to row at different times. I suspect if one club starts to do it, the other will reciprocate in some way.

I would expect anyone in a safety role to come to the aid of any crew in trouble, not just those from their own club. I can't believe anyone would take exception to that (feel free to surprise me!)

Thanks,
Kit

Quote:

> Having separate safety cover in addition to that which can be provided by coaches would be a good idea. However, to work, an agreement would need to be reached between all the clubs/ users of a particular stretch of river or lake. Knowing how well the rowing community communicates and shares information I can see this as a stumbling block.

> Where there is only one club using a particular stretch of river, that club can accept its responsibility to its members and try to find volunteers, in addition to the coaches to drive safety launches.

> However, to use the Walton reach as an example, does a volunteer from Walton RC who has given up his time to cover a training period for his club juniors then have a duty of care to remain on the river because there is a junior crew from Weybridge also training on the same reach?

> Could we end up with a situation where, at a particular pinch point, there are three of four launches, one form each club?

> I can see that the regional Water safety advisor is going to have some work to do.

> For myself, I shall take the matter up at National Coaches Committee meeting that takes place in ten days time to seek clarification as to what duty of care a coach might have to rowers who are not under his/her direct control.



> > On a side note:

> > We also had an interesting discussion about the role of launches. This crew had a coaching/safety launch, and St George's College have developed a habit of having a high ratio of launches/crew (to the detriment of other river users IMHO). However it is also a stretch of river that lends itself perfectly to coaching from the bank. We believe a better setup would be to have stationary launches positioned at regular intervals & known pinch points for safety purposes, with coaches on bikes using the towpath for crew instruction.

> > I would be interested to hear from anyone who uses such a system.

 
 
 

Accident at Sunbury Sluices (non-tidal Thames, UK) on 21 Feb

Post by Carl » Wed, 27 Feb 2013 07:01:13


Quote:
> Good points. I had envisaged each club would arrange their own safety cover times. In reality, on our stretch it would only be Walton and Weybridge that might end up doubling up, since St George's College tend to row at different times. I suspect if one club starts to do it, the other will reciprocate in some way.

> I would expect anyone in a safety role to come to the aid of any crew in trouble, not just those from their own club. I can't believe anyone would take exception to that (feel free to surprise me!)

> Thanks,
> Kit

Please forgive my scepticism, but I'm not in any way sure what extra
safety cover would have done in the case in question.

This is deadly serious, & could so easily have been rowing's blackest of
all days.

9 children went a long way don river during flood conditions.  This was
not a minor event.  They continued on the flood into a known danger zone
& did so at an exceptionally dangerous time.  They ventured where no
crew should at that time have gone.

We need to know how & why.  We don't need anyone with a possible vested
interest making dismissive comments about this incident, of the kind
we've just seen published.  We understand the urge to minimise
publicity, but without publicity others will never learn the necessary
lessons.  Is the preservation of face or reputation really that much
more important than a proper examination of the facts & their
dispassionate publication, which might well save human life?

In that case the chances are that it'll get brushed under the carpet,
along with all the other nasties of which rowers at large are entirely
unaware due to rowing's established practice of keeping schtum whenever
things go badly wrong.  In particular, it will there keep silent company
with other hair-raisingly dangerous mishaps, such as that of the women's
eight which went through the Hambledon sluices (below the Henley RR
course) & were only saved from death by the expert intervention of
skilled watermen who just happened to have a suitable launch in sight
with engine running.  The report on that one never saw the light of day,
of course.

IMO you can't provide effective safety cover against such actions.
There's even a risk that you'd encourage more risky conduct if you did.
  But, yes, I think we _all_ have a duty to risk our lives to save
others, but that's not quite the point.  We should make it unthinkable
to do something that was so ill-advised in the first place.  That
requires education, with sanctions applied following a transgression
whatever its outcome.

Let me repeat: 42 years ago 3 members of a rowing club only a few miles
upstream from this particular accident died in the very similar Penton
Hook sluices - in an appallingly similar mishap.  That club imposed, &
has ever since maintained, a very firm rule of never taking shells down
into that part of the river - better safe than sorry.  Do rowers do the
sensible thing only _after_ someone has been killed?

Carl

--
Carl Douglas Racing Shells        -
     Fine Small-Boats/AeRoWing Low-drag Riggers/Advanced Accessories
Write:   Harris Boatyard, Laleham Reach, Chertsey KT16 8RP, UK
Find:    tinyurl.com/2tqujf


 
 
 

Accident at Sunbury Sluices (non-tidal Thames, UK) on 21 Feb

Post by craigrtwad.. » Wed, 27 Feb 2013 17:28:50

For those who've not heard of the Penton Hook Accident before, here is the article I wrote which was published in Rowing & Regatta Magazine in April 2011:

Forty years ago on 25th April there was a tragic accident at Penton Hook Lock on the River Thames in which three oarsmen from Staines Boat Club lost their lives.
On that Sunday morning in 1971 an eight 'The Ashes' was on a routine outing - upstream to Bell Weir then down to Penton Hook. The weather was dry but the stream was fast. Whilst turning at Penton Hook Lock a bowside blade became trapped at the weir guard posts, around 140m from the weir, and the boat pivoted until it was broadside on to the stream. It then broke in two between the 3 and 4 seats and began to sink.
The bowman clung to a post and was rescued by a cruiser. 2, 3, 4 and 5 swam towards the bank but David Firman (2) did not make it and he was swept through the weir. 6, 7, strokeman and cox stayed with the stern section until it was swept onto the weir where it broke up. Strokeman Alan Choules supported the young cox, holding his head above the water, and at the weir he lifted him towards a man standing on the weir bridge but could not quite reach far enough. Several witnesses saw Alan shield the cox's head as they were swept through.
Below the weir, Alan continued to support the cox until two men arrived in a dinghy. They were able to pull the cox from the water but by this time Alan had disappeared. Allan Wickens (6) and John French (7) were also swept through the weir. About half a mile downstream Allan Wickens lost consciousness but John French grabbed a rope thrown from the bank and was pulled to safety.
David Firman, 29, was an engineer and unmarried.
Allan Wickens, 25, was a bank clerk and had been married for 18 months.
Alan Choules, 29, was married and had two young daughters. He was a detective constable. For saving the life of the cox he received posthumous awards from the Royal Humane Society and the Carnegie Trust Foundation.
In 2009 Staines BC named a new safety launch 'Alan Choules' and in 2011 a new eight was named 'The Ashes' in memory of the crew.
Since the accident all boats stop and turn at a bend around 800m upstream of the lock and well away from the weir.

 
 
 

Accident at Sunbury Sluices (non-tidal Thames, UK) on 21 Feb

Post by davies... » Wed, 27 Feb 2013 17:51:38

Quote:


> > Good points. I had envisaged each club would arrange their own safety cover times. In reality, on our stretch it would only be Walton and Weybridge that might end up doubling up, since St George's College tend to row at different times. I suspect if one club starts to do it, the other will reciprocate in some way.

> > I would expect anyone in a safety role to come to the aid of any crew in trouble, not just those from their own club. I can't believe anyone would take exception to that (feel free to surprise me!)

> > Thanks,

> > Kit

> Please forgive my scepticism, but I'm not in any way sure what extra

> safety cover would have done in the case in question.

> This is deadly serious, & could so easily have been rowing's blackest of

> all days.

> 9 children went a long way don river during flood conditions.  This was

> not a minor event.  They continued on the flood into a known danger zone

> & did so at an exceptionally dangerous time.  They ventured where no

> crew should at that time have gone.

> We need to know how & why.  We don't need anyone with a possible vested

> interest making dismissive comments about this incident, of the kind

> we've just seen published.  We understand the urge to minimise

> publicity, but without publicity others will never learn the necessary

> lessons.  Is the preservation of face or reputation really that much

> more important than a proper examination of the facts & their

> dispassionate publication, which might well save human life?

> In that case the chances are that it'll get brushed under the carpet,

> along with all the other nasties of which rowers at large are entirely

> unaware due to rowing's established practice of keeping schtum whenever

> things go badly wrong.  In particular, it will there keep silent company

> with other hair-raisingly dangerous mishaps, such as that of the women's

> eight which went through the Hambledon sluices (below the Henley RR

> course) & were only saved from death by the expert intervention of

> skilled watermen who just happened to have a suitable launch in sight

> with engine running.  The report on that one never saw the light of day,

> of course.

> IMO you can't provide effective safety cover against such actions.

> There's even a risk that you'd encourage more risky conduct if you did.

>   But, yes, I think we _all_ have a duty to risk our lives to save

> others, but that's not quite the point.  We should make it unthinkable

> to do something that was so ill-advised in the first place.  That

> requires education, with sanctions applied following a transgression

> whatever its outcome.

> Let me repeat: 42 years ago 3 members of a rowing club only a few miles

> upstream from this particular accident died in the very similar Penton

> Hook sluices - in an appallingly similar mishap.  That club imposed, &

> has ever since maintained, a very firm rule of never taking shells down

> into that part of the river - better safe than sorry.  Do rowers do the

> sensible thing only _after_ someone has been killed?

> Carl

> --

> Carl Douglas Racing Shells        -

>      Fine Small-Boats/AeRoWing Low-drag Riggers/Advanced Accessories

> Write:   Harris Boatyard, Laleham Reach, Chertsey KT16 8RP, UK

> Find:    tinyurl.com/2tqujf




You're right. My point about safety cover was meant to be a side issue and I didn't mean it to clog up this vital thread. As you say, safety cover wasn't the issue here. They should never have been on the water anyway. One of my rowing colleagues with nearly 50 years experience of this stretch of river says he has never heard of anyone getting into trouble at that particular weir.

Indeed the question in my mind is how they got a large boat like an 8x near it. The weir section is guarded by large piles that are fairly close together. All I can think of is that they got the bow or stern the wrong side of one pile, then the stream pushed the mid-section against another pile, snapping the boat in half like a twig over your knee.

Scary stuff.
Kit

 
 
 

Accident at Sunbury Sluices (non-tidal Thames, UK) on 21 Feb

Post by Carl » Wed, 27 Feb 2013 21:22:19


Quote:


>>> Good points. I had envisaged each club would arrange their own safety cover times. In reality, on our stretch it would only be Walton and Weybridge that might end up doubling up, since St George's College tend to row at different times. I suspect if one club starts to do it, the other will reciprocate in some way.

>>> I would expect anyone in a safety role to come to the aid of any crew in trouble, not just those from their own club. I can't believe anyone would take exception to that (feel free to surprise me!)

>>> Thanks,

>>> Kit

>> Please forgive my scepticism, but I'm not in any way sure what extra

>> safety cover would have done in the case in question.

>> This is deadly serious, & could so easily have been rowing's blackest of

>> all days.

>> 9 children went a long way don river during flood conditions.  This was

>> not a minor event.  They continued on the flood into a known danger zone

>> & did so at an exceptionally dangerous time.  They ventured where no

>> crew should at that time have gone.

>> We need to know how & why.  We don't need anyone with a possible vested

>> interest making dismissive comments about this incident, of the kind

>> we've just seen published.  We understand the urge to minimise

>> publicity, but without publicity others will never learn the necessary

>> lessons.  Is the preservation of face or reputation really that much

>> more important than a proper examination of the facts & their

>> dispassionate publication, which might well save human life?

>> In that case the chances are that it'll get brushed under the carpet,

>> along with all the other nasties of which rowers at large are entirely

>> unaware due to rowing's established practice of keeping schtum whenever

>> things go badly wrong.  In particular, it will there keep silent company

>> with other hair-raisingly dangerous mishaps, such as that of the women's

>> eight which went through the Hambledon sluices (below the Henley RR

>> course) & were only saved from death by the expert intervention of

>> skilled watermen who just happened to have a suitable launch in sight

>> with engine running.  The report on that one never saw the light of day,

>> of course.

>> IMO you can't provide effective safety cover against such actions.

>> There's even a risk that you'd encourage more risky conduct if you did.

>>    But, yes, I think we _all_ have a duty to risk our lives to save

>> others, but that's not quite the point.  We should make it unthinkable

>> to do something that was so ill-advised in the first place.  That

>> requires education, with sanctions applied following a transgression

>> whatever its outcome.

>> Let me repeat: 42 years ago 3 members of a rowing club only a few miles

>> upstream from this particular accident died in the very similar Penton

>> Hook sluices - in an appallingly similar mishap.  That club imposed, &

>> has ever since maintained, a very firm rule of never taking shells down

>> into that part of the river - better safe than sorry.  Do rowers do the

>> sensible thing only _after_ someone has been killed?

>> Carl

>> --

>> Carl Douglas Racing Shells        -

>>       Fine Small-Boats/AeRoWing Low-drag Riggers/Advanced Accessories

>> Write:   Harris Boatyard, Laleham Reach, Chertsey KT16 8RP, UK

>> Find:    tinyurl.com/2tqujf



> You're right. My point about safety cover was meant to be a side issue and I didn't mean it to clog up this vital thread. As you say, safety cover wasn't the issue here. They should never have been on the water anyway. One of my rowing colleagues with nearly 50 years experience of this stretch of river says he has never heard of anyone getting into trouble at that particular weir.

> Indeed the question in my mind is how they got a large boat like an 8x near it. The weir section is guarded by large piles that are fairly close together. All I can think of is that they got the bow or stern the wrong side of one pile, then the stream pushed the mid-section against another pile, snapping the boat in half like a twig over your knee.

> Scary stuff.
> Kit

Perfectly understood, Kit.  And the more separate aspects we can between
us draw together the better the record we shall create - in the expected
absence of any more-official responses & in the presence of strong
pressures to belittle & dismiss what actually happened.

In fact you made it possible for us collectively to highlight the
essential fact that safety is in our own hands.  Which it can be, as
long as information about typical rowing hazards is out there - loud,
clear, fully accessible, & is being taught on a regular basis as an
integral part of our culture.  Whenever a rower gets into trouble that
carries the strong possibility of an entirely innocent bystander coming
to their aid, as they should, & paying the highest penalty.  So lax
safety attitudes are particularly irresponsible.

And that's the problem.  Rowing, with its authoritarian streak, likes to
pretend it has no significant risks while coaches & rowers kid
themselves they are skilled & knowledgeable water experts.  The reality
is that we are too often relying on the unfounded presumption that
"it'll be all right on the night".  And, when it does go wrong, we rush
to pretend it wasn't predictable, or it was no one's fault, or that it
was the (dead) victim's fault.

We don't know what happened in this particular case, only its outcome.
We do know, as you say, that had the crew not gone down into that
stretch in those conditions that particular accident could not have
occurred.  We don't know why they went down there.  We do know that a
J14/15 octuple in those fast & narrow waters was the very last boat that
should have been there, being a tricky beast to steer, manoeuvre &
coordinate.

What many may not know is that all of these sluices could & should be
properly guarded by means of floating booms (of the Henley RR kind).
There's a lot of history to this, all of it unfavourable to the
Environment Agency (the river managers) & their predecessor
organisations, & to BR & its predecessor as NGB.

Only yesterday, a railway crossing manager & his employers were found
guilty of causing the death of a woman at a level crossing, the
employers having previously decided to save money by not installing
industry standard safety equipment & the signalman having become
confused by conflicting demands.  A significant number of river users
have been swept to their deaths in unguarded Thames & Trent sluices.
Many of those deaths would have been prevented had there been solid
floating booms ahead of the sluices, so that boats & accidental swimmers
could not & would not be carried onwards to destruction.  Such booms
would likely have saved the 3 guys from Staines BC all those years ago,
as they'd have saved a number of other victims of whom I am aware.  But
smug managers & accountants have resisted all reasoned requests for
action & the ARA would not even contemplate discussing, let alone
getting involved, in presenting such requests.

If one regatta can install & remove miles of floating booms & piling
each year for just a short period, how is it that the EA, which does
have booms ahead of a few of its sluices, & is aware of the deaths
occurring in its sluices, can resist pressure for booms at these known
danger blackspots.

What you have at the Sunbury sluices is a catenary of chains***
from the tops of high posts.  A shell will always pass beneath these, &
is anyway likely to be broken by impact on one of the posts.  They also
have, in some places such as this one, floating ropes (visible in the
Google Map link I provided).  But boats will pass straight over these.
And in the Hambledon incident almost 10 years back a dozy crew's eight
was broken against a solitary post carrying, would you believe it, a
Danger board, ensuring they then had no way to marshal their thoughts &
row away from the danger.

However, rowers remain complacent.  Accidents continue to repeat
themselves.  Nothing is learned.  Our NGB fought against rational safety
measures: it resisted shell buoyancy for way over a decade & still gives
zero help or guidance; it screwed up the standards for shoe heel
restraints to ensure the permitted restraints were too long to be
effective.  It hides incident reports from all eyes.  And I fear we are,
as a sport, one day going to deeply regret these follies.

Carl

--
Carl Douglas Racing Shells        -
     Fine Small-Boats/AeRoWing Low-drag Riggers/Advanced Accessories
Write:   Harris Boatyard, Laleham Reach, Chertsey KT16 8RP, UK
Find:    tinyurl.com/2tqujf


 
 
 

Accident at Sunbury Sluices (non-tidal Thames, UK) on 21 Feb

Post by wmart.. » Fri, 01 Mar 2013 03:16:11

On the slightly OT subject of insurance coverage... You buy it in the hopes of never having to use it. "minor incident" indeed.  someone give that school official a good reaming?
 
 
 

Accident at Sunbury Sluices (non-tidal Thames, UK) on 21 Feb

Post by Carl » Sat, 02 Mar 2013 07:25:31


Quote:
> On the slightly OT subject of insurance coverage... You buy it in the hopes of never having to use it. "minor incident" indeed.  someone give that school official a good reaming?

That's not the way it happens in the (S)motherland, Walter.  Here we
just bury bad news & pretend, since no one died, it couldn't have been
dangerous.  And, like humans everywhere, we don't like restrictions on
our freedom to be daft - then blame everyone else when our mistakes have
disastrous consequences.

Here's another account from the same reporter which thinks a boat stuck
in a sluice is a capsize, like there'd have been fold reporting that
Titanic 'capsized':
http://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/s/2129966_man_recalls_rescue_of_rower...

The use of the capsize term is in itself an exercise in self-deception,
because if we blame it on capsize we give the sense that everything else
was under perfect control until the pesky thing decided to roll over.

My view would be than nothing was under proper human control from the
moment that shell moved downstream past the large boatyard a very short
distance above the sluices.  With a 4kt+ stream running, an octuple of
14 & 15 yr olds probably simply didn't have enough time to make a full
turn & start pulling away from those sluices before they tangled with
those posts & floating rope which, rather than help keep them safe, most
probably added to the hazard by making it impossible for some or all of
them to row.

With floating booms instead of those ropes, the shell should have
fetched up against the booms & been held there sideways & immobile by
the flow, but relatively safe, until rescue reached them.  This is
exactly what happened in the past, at the Hampton Court sluices which
are at the bottom end of the next stretch & _are_ guarded by floating
booms.  Floating booms as guards above Thames sluices seem to be a
no-brainer.  They exist in some places but not in others.  There is no
possible argument against them - or none has yet been advanced in the 42
years since the fatal accident which killed 3 rowers just upstream from
here (&, lest anyone think this is just a rowers' problem, quite
recently a non-rower trying to save a dog died in those same sluices).

Finally, I hope the coach of that octo is treated with some sympathy.
I'd suppose they've had the scare of his or her life &, while the head
seems determined to dismiss it as a "minor incident", I should think the
possible outcomes will haunt that person for the rest of their lives,
thereby making them a much better and safer coach.

Carl

--
Carl Douglas Racing Shells        -
     Fine Small-Boats/AeRoWing Low-drag Riggers/Advanced Accessories
Write:   Harris Boatyard, Laleham Reach, Chertsey KT16 8RP, UK
Find:    tinyurl.com/2tqujf


 
 
 

Accident at Sunbury Sluices (non-tidal Thames, UK) on 21 Feb

Post by R.. » Sat, 09 Mar 2013 04:28:47

This is worth a quick read http://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/s/2130318_capsized_college_rowers_ver...
Assuming the information in the article is true, what on earth was the school up to? Risk assessment?  What risk assessment?
Rob
 
 
 

Accident at Sunbury Sluices (non-tidal Thames, UK) on 21 Feb

Post by Carl » Sat, 09 Mar 2013 07:27:20


Quote:
> This is worth a quick read http://SportToday.org/
> Assuming the information in the article is true, what on earth was the school up to? Risk assessment?  What risk assessment?
> Rob

Strangely enough, I yesterday wrote a response in the box following that
article.  It was very measured but was not acknowledged or published.
Unfortunately I did not think to make a copy, so you'll have to make do
with what I can recall

I noted first that "capsize" was probably irrelevant to the accident &
possibly inaccurate.  And that an octo full of youngsters was the least
manoeuvrable of all shells.

I noted that their fate was probably settled from the moment they went
below the large EA boatyard (on the N bank, see the map).  Once in that
confined space & very fast stream, they'd have insufficient time to
complete a turn, let alone start rowing away from the sluices, before
someone caught a blade on a post, or the boat itself got wrapped around
one.  At which point it was game over.  And any panic, for which no one
should blame the kids, would only have made the outcome more certain.

And what was that guff about*** onto the boat?  I've a photo of
just the bows & bow's stroke-side rigger stuck out of the sluices at 30
degrees to horizontal, so who could save themselves by*** on?  To
assist such "experts" I likened turning an eight there to having the
sluices advancing on you at >6mph, or to trying to make a 3-point turn
right in front of an oncoming earthmover.

I noted that the sluices are completely unguarded & unsafe for swimmers,
rowers or other small boats, whereas floating booms have been shown to
keep shells & crews out of similar sluices (as happened for Surrey
University a while back at the Hampton Court Sluices, opposite Molesey BC)

I pointed out, too, that for any water accident other than one involving
rowers the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) would begin
investigations, & it'd be no bad thing were rowing's exemption to cease.

As for the school: one can see this as an honest failure of judgement by
one otherwise caring coach.  AFAIK no part of current coach instruction
addresses the particular & known dangers of boating in fast flows, & of
course the continuing reluctance of BR to involve itself in such events
or to publicise them keeps it that way.  That said, it would be better
had the school refrained from public statements denying the severity of
the accident & now to be claiming to carry out its own investigation.  I
very much doubt the school has staff competent to pick the (fortunately
metaphorical) bones out of such an event, but it must have an interest
in downplaying the whole business - a luxury only afforded by the
exceptional good fortune that no one died.

Hey, Rob, can you add a more in-depth lawyer's view on this - to save
the concerned among us from putting our foot in that part of it?

Carl

--
Carl Douglas Racing Shells        -
     Fine Small-Boats/AeRoWing Low-drag Riggers/Advanced Accessories
Write:   Harris Boatyard, Laleham Reach, Chertsey KT16 8RP, UK
Find:    tinyurl.com/2tqujf


 
 
 

Accident at Sunbury Sluices (non-tidal Thames, UK) on 21 Feb

Post by R.. » Mon, 11 Mar 2013 00:36:31

Thanks Carl

The legal approach is not much different from the approach that an ordinary sensible person would take.

1. At the beginning of my club's safety policy is the following sensible summary:

'Duty of Care: This responsibility is on all of us (the Committee and individual members). You must take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which you can reasonably foresee would be likely to injure your neighbour. Defined by Lord Atkin in 1932. (Donoghue v Stevenson). Who then is my neighbour?  Someone who is so closely and directly affected by my acts or omissions that I ought to have them in mind when directing my mind to the acts or omissions which are called into question.  This reference is not age limited it applies to all. Therefore we each have a responsibility to  consider the effects of our activities on others and to minimise the risk of injury to them and ourselves.'

2. It is clear and obvious that the school has a duty of care to its pupils, when pupils undertake activities organised and supervised by the school.

3. A failure to meet the duty of care will not result in legal liability unless it causes foreseeable loss or injury.  Thankfully, in this case it seems (as far as I know) that there was no significant injury, even to the poor chap who went over the weir.

4. Foreseeable loss or damage caused by a failure to meet the duty of care will not result in legal liability if the loss results from a simple error of judgement, but not from behaviour that is deliberate, negligent or reckless.

5. Whether someone is negligent or reckless is a tested objectively (i.e. what the reasonable judge thinks, having heard all the evidence).  The standard of proof is the 'balance of probabilities', i.e. 'more likely than not', or '50% plus one' etc.

6.  If there were to be litigation arising out of this incident (and personally I hope there is no loss or injury that justifies it), then there are aspects of the circumstances as reported in the medial that (if I were acting for the school) would give me cause for concern.  These include boating when an EA 'stream decreasing' red board was in operation - indicating a recommendation by an expert and respected agency that unpowered craft should not navigate.  

Any other lawyers reading this will recognise that this is a pretty blunt summary, that (perhaps thankfully) leaves out much of the detail and nuance of the law, but I hope it is useful.

Rob