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Sinking of the Marchioness

The Marchioness disaster occurred on the River Thames in London in the early hours of 20 August 1989. The pleasure boat Marchioness sank after being run down by the dredger Bowbelle, near Cannon Street Railway Bridge. There were 131 people on the Marchioness. Some were members of the crew, some were catering staff and others were guests at a private birthday party. Fifty-one of them drowned.
The party was organised by photographer agent Jonathan Phang to celebrate the 26th birthday of Antonio de Vasconcellos, who worked in a merchant bank.

Phang organised a three-part celebration : an eight-person dinner in a flat on Meard Street (only two of the diners survived) ; a birthday cake and a champagne celebration for a group of 30 at the flat ; and the party on the Marchioness. Many of those at the party were also in their twenties ; some were former student friends and others worked in the fashion industry. The dead included Francesca Dallaglio, older sister of future England national rugby union captain Lawrence Dallaglio, and the skipper of the Marchioness, Stephen Faldo, father of reality TV star Jeff Brazier.

In the initial instant of collision the anchor of the Bowbelle cut through the side of the Marchioness. The Marchioness then rolled over and quickly filled with water, while being pushed under by the Bowbelle. As the Marchioness capsized, her entire superstructure became detached. The formal investigation put the time elapsed, from the instant of collision at 1.46 a.m. to complete immersion, at close to 30 seconds.
Of the deceased, 24 were recovered from the sunken hull. The majority of the survivors had been on the upper decks at the time of the collision.

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