River rescue team saves 49 boats on the River Avon

A river rescue team managed to pull off a huge logistical feat to save 49 canal boats in one 18-hour shift in Bath, according to Somerset Live.

Disaster struck on the Kennet and Avon Canal when a sluice gate broke at Twerton on Tuesday 15 September at around 6pm.

Water rapidly drained from the canal and, in the space of an hour, no more than a trickle was left. Several boats were capsized completely when their tight moorings pulled them in the wrong direction as the water disappeared.

In total, 49 canal boats became stranded in thick silt for several days, with boats perched precariously on concrete slabs, on their sides or submerged in filthy water.

But one company came to the rescue and managed to get all 49 boats rescued in one huge 18-hour shift, according to Somerset Live.

River Canal Rescue was formed by engineering couple Stephanie Horton and James Forman 15 years ago in Staffordshire. The team is regularly called in to attend incidents with canal boats often involving flooding, but Horton admitted that the emergency in Bath was of a “huge scale” and something they had not done before.

She says: “This was a record-breaking rescue – we’ve never rescued so many boats in that time frame before. It is unheard of for us to need every single member of the team at one single operation – we haven’t needed that ever.”

The Canal and River Trust, who hold guardianship of the 2.5 mile stretch of river affected by the broken sluice gate, appointed the Canal River Rescue team to help the stricken boats.

“One of our members alerted us to the situation midday Wednesday, and then the Canal River Trust took control and asked us to manage the recovery process,” continues Horton. “Given the number of craft at risk, we pulled in engineers from around the country, re-juggled their priorities and started amassing extra equipment and getting everything in one place.”

By the end of Friday, 12 members of the River Canal Rescue along with help from Canal and River Trust employees, Environment Agency and Bath and North East Somerset Council, managed to get every boat rescued.

There had previously been dismay among the boaters at the delay of time between their boats sinking and any possible rescue attempt. One boater, James Stuart-Wigley, was left in shock after he only managed to fling his laptop and two dogs to safety just before his vessel sank.

The Environment Agency has agreed to cover the costs incurred by those affected by the incident as they control the sluice gate which broke and caused the issue.

Read the full story online.

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This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.