Tributes paid to young man who lost his life in Woolwich Ferry fall

Tributes have been paid to a young crew member on the Woolwich Ferry who died after falling off the boat in the River Thames and being hit by the propellers.

Among the tributes left in flowers placed at the ferry’s entrance was a note to Ben Woollacott saying he was “the cheekiest chappie on the river.”

The 19-year-old is thought to have been hit by the ferry’s propellers after he fell in the water in the incident yesterday morning.

The free ferry service between Woolwich and North Woolwich, was suspended all day yesterday while an investigation is carried out by the Marine Accident Investigation Bureau.

A one boat service resumed this morning with a flag flying at half-maste in honour of their lost colleague.

It is a difficult time for the ferry workers.

Transport for London issued a statement offering condolences to Ben’s family.

Most Read

Leon Daniels, Managing Director of Transport for London Surface Transport said: “It is with immense sadness that I learned of the death this morning of Ben Woollacott following an incident on the Woolwich Ferry. Many generations of Woollacotts have given great service to the river with Ben keeping up the family tradition and following in his father’s footsteps. On behalf of Transport for London and all users of the Thames, I would like to offer my sincere condolences to Ben’s family, friends and colleagues. He will, I know, be very sadly missed.”

A Scotland Yard spokesman said they were called to the Ferry’s south terminal at 6.10am yesterday.

A spokesman for the London Coastguard said it understood the man fell while mooring ropes were being untied.

Coastguards managed to pull the victim ashore but waiting paramedics were unable to revive him and he was pronounced dead.

A Transport for London spokesman said: “The Woolwich Ferry, operated by Serco on behalf of TfL, was involved in a fatal incident with a male staff member. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time.”

The man was declared dead by the London Ambulance Service.

A post mortem will be held in due course.

Signs were yesterday posted at the ferry entrances on both sides of the River Thames.

Traffic was diverted to the Blackwall Tunnel and other river crossings.

Last night, a friend laying flowers at the ferry entrance said: “This really is the saddest day.”

Ben is the son of Stephen Woollacott who owns Cruise London, which runs Thames Pleasure trips.

It is understood Ben, from Swanley in Kent was learning his trade on the ferry.

Another friend said: “Ben’s father is distraught.It’s such a tragic loss. They are a very well-respected family on the river. Ben was following in his father’s footsteps and he was a very enthusiastic young boy. It’s a tragic loss to the whole community on the river.”

Ben who came from five generations of Thames boatmen, was learning the family trade on board the Ernest Bevin ferry when he fell into the river.

Stephen Woolacott runs riverboats that travel along the Thames for sight-seeing and corporate events.