A FAMILY were lucky to escape with their lives one Friday morning in August 1977 when their boat exploded near Halfpenny Bridge at Lechlade. Amazingly, no-one was hurt, but unsurprisingly they all suffered a nasty shock. 

Six people, across three generations of the Clarke family were visiting from Leigh-on-Sea in Essex. 

After refilling his cruiser with petrol, Mr Clarke was coming into the moorings when the engine stalled. When he tried to restart it, the cruiser went off with a bang, alight with well-fuelled flames. 

The occupants, some of whom were unable to swim, did not jump into the water, but waited for the blazing boat to drift to the opposite bank, increasing the danger they faced.

Reg Hames witnessed the explosion and stressed how fortunate the family was. “It was lucky the wind blew it across to the other side of the bank, otherwise it could have drifted into moored boats and probably set about six of them on fire,” Reg said.

The boat burned for well over half an hour, before it could be extinguished. Although the fire most likely started as a petrol fire, a Calor gas cylinder was also set off by the blaze.

The vessel was virtually destroyed. All that remained was the shell of what was once a fine 25-foot ‘Seamaster.’

After all the drama, the family were taken aboard a neighbouring vessel to recover from their ordeal.

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