John Simmonds, who lost 'everything' when his boat was swept into a bridge and sank in Oxford, has been inundated with donations from the public.
Update 10 February
John Simmonds, the man who lost all his belongings when his narrowboat sunk in Oxford, has been overwhelmed with donations of money, beddings and clothing from readers of the Oxford Mail, the local newspaper who’s run a campaign to help the 35-year-old IT professional.
“When everything happened to my boat, all I was really thinking about was what on earth I was going to do with it and how I was going to sort my life out.”, he said to the Oxford Mail.
“I never really thought that this many people would have got behind me and helped me so I just can’t thank them enough.
“To have received letters, bedding and all this money is really quite something.”
A generous donor who wishes to remain anonymous, pledged £25,000 to Mr Simmonds’s cause, rounding up the monetary donations to £27,000
4 February 2016
One of two narrowboats that were swept off their moorings on Monday and smashed into Oxford’s Botley Bridge has sunk, taking with it the “entire life” of its owner.
John Simmonds had reportedly left his vessel, One Old Peculiar, for a brief trip out to get food when the incident occurred.
Simmonds told local news website thisisoxfordshire.com that when he returned to the area where his boat was moored he found a crowd of people gathered on Botley Bridge and emergency vehicles on the scene.
Simmonds, who has Asperger’s syndrome, said: “I suddenly realised it was my boat they were all looking at … and I thought it could well sink. It all became too overwhelming for me so I hid away from the river and just sat down on the floor and cried.”
A self-employed IT specialist, Simmonds used his £60,000 lifesavings to buy the boat. Having forgotten to pay his boat insurance two months ago, he now fears he will be unable to afford to restore it if crews on site manage to remove the boat from where it is lodged.
Engineers from the UK’s Environment Agency and local fire service personnel have been at the scene attempting to pump water from the submerged narrowboat. Divers will reportedly make an attempt to refloat the vessel using flotation bags, however authorities believe the 25-tonne boat may require a crane to be removed.
The other boat that was swept downstream was successfully recovered after it smashed into the bridge, and owner James Kelly reportedly said it was “barely affected.” Kelly also called on the public to help Mr Simmons and hailed him a hero for saving the lives of two people involved in a boat fire just over a year ago.
Kelly said: “What John did was absolutely amazing, especially considering his Aspergers, and I think it’s time people stepped up and helped a man who has done so much for the community and saved people’s lives.”
The thisisoxfordshire.com website has begun an effort to raise money for Simmonds. Anyone wishing to help by donating money, clothes, food or aid can contact the site on 01865 425 373.
Please send cheques made out to John Simmonds to: Oxford Mail, Newspaper House, Osney Mead, Oxford, OX2 0EJ