2021 Annual BSS report of incidents and accidents

Annual BSS report of incidents and accidents

This report covers incidents recorded over the year from 1st January to 31st December 2021. In total there were 70 incidents on the inland waterways. There were 28 fires and CO incidents. Of these, the cause of 16 incidents (57%) is unknown/not conclusive/to be confirmed. In nine of the 28 incidents, the boat was used intensively (i.e. for residential or extended use). Despite the high number of unreported causes of fires on boats, there are six recorded incidents involving solid-fuel stove fires, which makes these the single largest factor in known causes for 2021. A summary of the main findings in the report is:

Fatal incidents:

  • A fatal accident in January, when a man drowned after falling from a boat into the River Lea. Temperatures in the area were below freezing at the time. According to eye-witnesses, the rear of the boat was in collision with the towpath when the man fell into the water.
  • In October, the victim was travelling on a commercial waterway on his narrowboat with relatives. He left the cabin to climb to the front of the boat to take photographs of his relatives. While climbing back around the side of the boat, he lost his footing and fell into the water. A relative jumped into the water to assist him but the victim disappeared from view. His body was recovered the following day. He was not wearing a life-jacket.

Major injury:

  • In February, one person was seriously injured after a fire on a liveaboard cruiser. Paramedics treated the victim for smoke inhalation and burns before taking him to hospital. The victim was known to be a vulnerable boater. The fire is believed to have been an accident, potentially caused by a wood-burner. The boat was destroyed by the blaze and sank.
  • In December, a septuagenarian man and sole occupant suffered severe smoke inhalation and minor burns in a narrowboat fire. He was taken to hospital after being treated at the scene. It is believed that, after waking early in the morning, he lit the solid-fuel stove before returning to bed. When he later awakened, the boat was filled with smoke and he attempted to fight the fire. It was reported that the boat was very cluttered with combustible items and it is not clear whether it was fitted with a smoke alarm.
  • Explosion and fire. In June, emergency services responded to reports of a loud
    explosion and subsequent fire on a trading boat in intensive use. A man was taken to hospital and another, who was out of the boat when the crews arrived, was given treatment for his injuries at the scene before being taken to hospital for further checks.
  • In December, an explosion and subsequent fire on a boat caused serious burns to the single occupant, who was hospitalised. The boat had no installed LPG systems and unofficial reports suggest that the owner was using a portable camping stove and gas heater at the time and that one of these devices had leaked. The gas ignited, causing the explosion and fire.

Other serious incidents:

MOB and personal injury:

  • In April, a man was airlifted to hospital after he fell overboard when the boat had an uncontrolled collision due to gear failure. He was crushed between the boat and the riverbank.
  • In May, to avoid colliding with another boat in a lock, the helm took evasive action, applying more throttle, just as the victim was stepping from the lockside onto the boat. The victim slipped and fell into the water. The helm used throttle power to avoid crushing the victim between the boat and lockside, but the victim’s leg got caught in the propeller. The helm had to use the weedhatch to cut away clothing to free the victim, who suffered shock, hypothermia, a broken leg and severe lacerations.
  • In June, a hirer fell into the canal and sustained a deep leg wound. Heat from the sun and radiated heat from the roof of the hire-boat had softened a plastic boarding plank, which bent into a U-shape when hirer stepped on it, tipping him into the canal.

Other incidents:

  • A narrowboat caught fire in October when it was moored in a river marina. An investigation found that the cause was due to items being too close to a lit log-burner. Nobody was harmed; the boat was unattended.
  • A residential boat suffered a small fire when moored on a river. The fire originated behind a wood-burning stove, due to radiated heat from the stove. The flames caused damage to plyboard and insulation. A smoke alarm warned the owner and sole occupant and there were no injuries.
    MOB = man overboard.

Compiled by the Boat Safety Scheme Office on 1st March 2022. The full report is available at www.boatsafetyscheme.org > search incident reports.