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River Ouse boat fire raises safety concerns
SAFETY concerns have been raised over how York’s emergency services would cope with a major river disaster.
Boat owner Mike Neal voiced his fears following the blaze on board the private 47-foot Silver C of York at its mooring on King’s Staith last month which destroyed the luxury yacht and saw 35 firefighters tackling the flames.
No-one was injured, but Mr Neal, who witnessed the devastation from the deck of his barge nearby, said he feared a bigger incident could have serious consequences.
However, York’s fire service chief has reassured residents that the city’s emergency services were prepared for a major disaster.
Mr Neal praised how the firefighters tackled the fire on September 28, but said: “It’s a concern of mine that York – which I consider to be a river city – is not prepared.”
He said the boat fire highlighted some of the potential dangers, especially if people had been on board, and he was particularly worried that an accident involving a lot of passengers could end in tragedy.
“There could be 500 people on the river on a Saturday night with party boats and private boats. I think York is ill-prepared for a Marchioness type disaster.”
Dave Dryburgh, North Yorkshire Fire & Rescue’s group manager for York and Selby, said he was confident the emergency services could respond to “any foreseeable event” on the Ouse.
“After the Marchioness disaster in 1989, ROSAG – the River Ouse Safety Advisory Group – was formed, and it has a comprehensive plan for river safety,” he said.
“Although a member of the public might not see much, we have got a lot of resource.”
Mr Neal himself was involved in a boat crash near Bishopthorpe in the 1980s, when it took an hour and 20 minutes to get him to hospital.
Mr Dryburgh said fire service resources had since improved drastically to deal with river accidents with a power boat on the water in York and specialist water rescue teams elsewhere in the county.
A practice exercise for the Ouse safety plan took place only three weeks ago involving fire, police, ambulance staff and RAF rescue helicopters.
Mr Dryburgh said debriefing reports from the exercise were still being prepared.
“It was carried out under exercise conditions, so a member of the public could have seen casualties still in the water after an hour but that’s because we kept the casualties there to allow the boat crews to practice rescues, and the RAF to practise winching casualties,” he added.
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