Woman dies after boat sinks at carnival

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The Independent Online

Police arrested three people yesterday after a woman died when an pleasure boat capsized on the river Severn during a carnival in Stourport.

Two women and a man were questioned by West Mercia police, investigating how the 23ft craft sank at Stourport-on-Severn marina in Worcestershire on Saturday night.

The woman, who was in her 40s, was trapped under water in the cabin of the boat after it overturned near the town's marina at about 10pm. Rescuers smashed a porthole to haul her body from the craft but she died later at Worcester hospital without regaining consciousness. Fifteen other passengers were treated for shock or minor injuries.

The incident occurred as dozens of vessels were on the river celebrating the Stourport Land and Water Carnival. The four-berth boat, a 30-year-old cabin cruiser called Sweetie Pie, had 16 people on board. Witnesses said they had ignored warnings that the boat was overcrowded and in danger of sinking.

Peter Howells, the commodore of Stourport Yacht Club, said safety marshals had asked them to put some people ashore. "For a vessel of that size I would suggest it could be safely navigated with eight people on board," he said. "It was extremely low in the water."

Members of the public formed a flotilla of boats, and the Severn Area Rescue Association (SARA) joined emergency services in pulling passengers from the water. Chief Inspector Alan Baldwin, who coordinated the rescue, said their efforts had averted a much more serious incident.

Alan Stanley, of SARA, came across the half-submerged boat as he returned from the carnival aboard a safety launch.

"It was chaos, people were shouting and it was very dark. Somebody noticed there was a person in the front cabin who was unconscious," he said. "At that point we got a hammer, broke the window and got the lady out."

West Mercia police, the River Authority and the Health and Safety Executive are investigating the incident.