Investigation after tug capsizes in Thames

A crew member who fell in the River Thames in London after his tug capsized and sank was presumed drowned today as marine accident experts launched an investigation into the accident.

Two other crew members were safely rescued after the tug, called Chieftain and which was towing a barge with a crane on it, went down off Greenwich Pier in south London just before 11am yesterday.



A major search-and-rescue operation was launched for the missing crewman, with efforts being co-ordinated by the Woolwich-based London coastguard.



But about four hours after the sinking the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said the search, involving police, the Port of London Authority, the fire brigade and lifeboat crews, was called off.



The section of the river around Greenwich Pier had been closed while the search had gone on.



The MCA said last night: "The Port of London Authority (PLA) is beginning the first stages of an operation to raise the sunken tug. Depending on the circumstances, this will be carried out by PLA or by a salvage contractor.



"The Marine Accident Investigation Branch have begun an investigation into the causes of the accident. The incident is also being investigated by the MCA survey and inspection branch."



A second tug boat, which river workers said was also attached to the barge, was still afloat at the scene of the accident yesterday.



One onlooker said they went to the riverside shortly after the incident at 11am but by then the boat was underwater.



One passer-by who witnessed the sinking said: "The front tug seemed to hit a buoy and capsized. It was submerged within a matter of minutes. I saw two men being pulled out of the water on the other side of the river.



"All the boats in the area scrambled and were searching for the third man. As the minutes dragged on, I started to fear the worst. It was terrible watching and not being able to help."



Thames safety measures were tightened in the aftermath of the 1989 Marchioness riverboat sinking disaster in which 51 people died when their boat was in a collision with a dredger on the Thames near Southwark, south London.



The improved measures included the setting up of the London coastguard which is located at the Thames Barrier Navigation Centre at Woolwich.



Yesterday's sinking follows the death on the Thames last week of Ben Woollacott, 19, a crewman on the Woolwich Ferry.



He fell from the ferry and under its propeller while mooring ropes were being untied.



Paramedics treated the crewman when he was pulled from the Thames, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.



He was the son of Stephen Woollacott, owner of a Thames riverboat company.



Transport for London said the Woolwich Ferry will be suspended on Monday as staff will be paying their respects at Mr Woollacott's funeral.



Thames River Services and Crown River Cruises are also suspending services on Monday.



Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - .NET

£27000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of a mark...

Recruitment Genius: Help Desk Specialist

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides Reliabili...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Managing Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of refrigeration, mechan...

Recruitment Genius: Advertisement Sales Manager

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A publishing company based in F...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor