19-year-old apprentice died yesterday after falling overboard ferry and under its propeller

Ben Woollacott fell overboard the Woolwich Ferry yesterday

morning and was dragged under the boat’s propeller. Despite the best efforts of

paramedics and doctors, Ben was declared dead at 7am.

The 19-year-old came from five generations of Thames

boatmen, and was learning the family trade on the ferry when he fell overboard.

“Ben was following in his father’s footsteps and he was a

very enthusiastic young boy,” a friend of the family said. “It’s a tragic loss

to the whole community on the river.”

His father is Stephen Woolacott, the owner of Cruise London,

which runs riverboats along the Thames.

A friend of the family revealed that Ben had just one year

remaining of his four-year apprenticeship. He had impressed his employers so

much that he was offered a full-time job for when he’d obtained his boatmaster’s

licence. “It’s a traditional father to son industry that goes back five or six

generations,” the friend said.

Martin Garside, from the Port of London Authority, said an investigation into the circumstances of the accident is now

underway.

Flags on the ferry, which was not operating after the tragedy, were flying at

half-mast as a mark of respect to the young man.