RNLI crews attended the scene at 1am on Friday morning after reports that a floating restaurant and barge were sinking on Richmond riverfront
A floating restaurant on Richmond riverfront has completely sunk after the pontoon it was attached to failed to rise with the tide.
Volunteer crews from Teddington Lifeboat Station attended the scene at 1am on Friday morning after it emerged that The Boat Restaurant was sinking into the river, while another was listing severely to one side.
Up to 40 rowing boats were also attached to the pontoon and an employee from the hire company was seen desperately trying to save them.
Crewman James Kavanagh said: “It was mayhem! The river was littered with floating debris and owners of the rowing boats tethered to the pontoon were frantically trying to salvage as much as they could.
“The pontoon had failed and any vessel moored with decent rope was quickly being dragged under. As the tide rose, the stern of The Boat restaurant became fully submerged.”
The RNLI’s Adam Holland added: “We got to the bridge and we saw what looked like to be a steel-hulled boat lifting quite dramatically onto the starboard side with the bow facing downstream.
“Because the pontoon didn’t rise, the moorings of the boats got taught and it appeared that the steel-hulled barge had fallen onto the pontoon, pinning it down.”
After checking there were no casualties at the scene, RNLI Volunteers tended to the vessels.
As the steel-hulled barge continued to list, crews could hear items falling and crashing inside the vessel and also thought they could hear gas.
Fire crews attended the scene shortly after but no gas was found on board and they were stood down.
RNLI volunteers considered cutting the mooring line to the steel barge but decided that there was too much tension and doing so could cause more damage.
After deciding there was nothing more they could do for either vessel, the crew spent time collecting floating debris from the River Thames, including a large picnic bench that had come off the pontoon.
The Boat at Richmond Bridge is one of only 11 remaining barges of its kind.
Previously owned by Jesus College, Oxford, the barge was built to use for river processions on the Thames in the 15th century.
It’s now owned by four friends, who have transformed their barge into a British restaurant.