PLANS to launch a river rescue boat in York have taken a big step forward – only weeks after the need for such a craft was highlighted by a student’s disappearance.

York Rescue Boat has achieved charitable status, giving founder Dave Benson the green light to hit the fundraising trail.

Mr Benson said the disappearance of York St John University student Megan Roberts last month had illustrated the dangers posed by the River Ouse and the importance of having a boat to patrol the river. It would be manned by volunteers and patrol the river during times when people were most at risk of falling or jumping in, such as racedays and Saturday nights.

Megan, 20, has not been seen since early on Thursday, January 23, after a night out with friends. Police believe she probably fell into the Ouse.

Mr Benson, a former head door supervisor from Yates’s Bar near Ouse Bridge, in York city centre, came up with the idea for a rescue boat after helping a woman out of the Ouse last year.

The Press reported last year how Mr Benson lowered a life ring to the young woman who had fallen 25 feet into the river and pulled her to a ledge, from where police officers were able to help her out. He said he was thrilled the boat project had now achieved charitable status.

“This will give us the grounding to move forward to making a difference to the safety on the River Ouse and also help assist anyone unfortunate enough to become affected by future flooding in the area,” he said.

He is now looking for volunteers and plans to approach local businesses, in particular pubs and clubs, for their support, claiming such businesses had a duty of care for drinkers when they had left their bars.

Mr Benson said he thought he needed to raise between £50,000 and £60,000 and was looking to organise a charity ball in the summer to launch the appeal.

York Central MP Hugh Bayley said the new boat would be a real asset and a help to the emergency services.

“They do a great job but at busy times they are overstretched and the additional boat will be welcome,” he said.

The project also won backing from Jim Geogheghan-Breen, emergency planning co-ordinator for City of York Council, who chairs the River Ouse Safety Group.

•To support the rescue boat venture, email Mr Benson on or tweet him at @yorkrescueboat