Segments in this Video

The Marchioness Disaster (01:47)


The party cruise boat was hit by a dredger on the Thames River on August 20, 1989. More than 50 people attending a private birthday party were killed, marking the worst accident on the river in 100 year.

Evening of the Accident (04:33)

Antonio Vasconcello had a dinner party before boarding the Marchioness to celebrate his 26th birthday. The Bowbelle was one of the largest ships on the Thames, which dredged at night for sand and gravel. Alcohol consumption by riverboat night crews was a known concern.

Boarding the Ships (01:22)

Two licensed crew members and an unknown number of passengers boarded the Marchioness at about 12:30 a.m. The Bowbelle set off from Nine Elms Docks at about 1:15 a.m. Safety concerns had been raised about the ships large size, but no new regulations were added.

On the River (03:18)

The Marchioness left its dock at about 1:30 a.m. The Bowbelle reported its position near the Vauxwell Bridge to the Thames Navigation Service. The Marchioness did not hear the information over its music and could not see behind itself because of a new party deck.

The Crash (05:29)

The Department of Transport had allowed renovations to both ships that caused large blind spots. Both approached the Southwark Bridge at about 1:45 a.m. and saw each other too late to turn away. The Marchioness sank and the Bowbelle crew lost control of the ship.

Emergency Response (03:50)

Woolwich Marine Police were notified of the accident at 1:46 a.m. but initially got the location wrong. Police were still attempting to locate the Marchioness more than 10 minutes after the accident. Some passengers were rescued by another party boat but many drowned.

Search and Rescue (03:32)

Efforts on the river are jointly conducted by police, Port of London Authority, and passing vessels. There have been calls for a dedicated team on the river, but one has not been created. Of the 131 passengers on the Marchioness, 51 were killed.

Response to the Crash (04:17)

Many of the Marchioness passengers did not realize how bad it was until they saw news reports. Multiple agencies launched investigations, but it was not revealed until years later that multiple Bowbelle crew members had been drinking. There are still no laws regarding an alcohol limit for boat operators on the Thames.

Credits: Disaster: Series 3: The Marchioness (00:41)

Credits: Disaster: Series 3: The Marchioness

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Disaster: Series 3: The Marchioness

Part of the Series : Disaster: Series 3
DVD (Chaptered) Price: $129.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $194.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $129.95



In 1989, 51 people were killed when the Marchioness pleasure boat sank on the Thames River in London after it collided with a dredger. This film tells the story of that night, and examines shortcomings in river safety.

Length: 30 minutes

Item#: FMK185497

ISBN: 978-1-64623-971-9

Copyright date: ©1999

Closed Captioned

Performance Rights

Prices include public performance rights.

Not available to Home Video and Publisher customers.