Passengers on board a tourist boat that caught fire on the River Thames were not wearing lifejackets, an investigation committee has heard.
Philip Naylor, the Maritime Coastguard Agency’s maritime safety and standards director, told the London Assembly’s specially-appointed Thames Passenger Boat Investigation Committee that it would “not have been usual” for passengers on the type of boat in question to have lifejackets on.
The crew and all 28 passengers, including a four-year-old child, escaped the flames by jumping into the water.
They were safely recovered from the Thames, with other tourist boats offering their assistance during the rescue operation.
Lifejackets in the London Duck Tours vessel Cleopatra, which caught fire on September 29, were in plastic bags stowed above the seats.
Mr Naylor told the committee that this was a perfectly good place to stow them and that the plastic bags would help keep them in good condition.
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A Marine Accident Investigation Branch report into the incident blamed the accident on problems with the boat’s buoyancy foam.
London Duck Tours managing director John Bigos said the Cleopatra had the required legal number of lifejackets on board and that it was company policy that lifejackets are not worn on tours.
He added that the company gave physical demonstrations of donning lifejackets before tours began, while the boats did not carry more than two babes-in-arms and these young children would be supplied with special lifejackets.
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