North West Wales

Penmaenpool ferry disaster victims remembered 50 years on

Penmaenpool

Events will mark 50 years since a pleasure boat sank off the Gwynedd coast, with 15 people drowning.

The Prince of Wales was nearing the end of a pleasure trip from Barmouth when it hit the Penmaenpool toll bridge on 22 July 1966.

An inquiry found the skipper negligent, with the vessel undermanned and carrying too many people.

On Friday, a plaque will be unveiled in memory of the victims, including four children.

There were 42 people on board the ferry for the eight mile (13km) trip from Barmouth to the George III hotel when the disaster happened.

An official inquiry found the boat was carrying six more passengers than the maximum 36 permitted under its certification.

Furthermore, there should have been two crew members - one on the engine and one on the rudder.

But there was only skipper Edward Llewelyn, 73 at the time, who was found to have acted negligently by a Board of Trade inquiry.

The boat was also short of lifebelts and buoyancy apparatus was stowed away.

While it was cruising in at slow speed towards the jetty, the force of the tide sent it crashing into the toll bridge, throwing all passengers into the water.

"I saw the boat coming up the river and the tide was very strong that day," said Ron Davies, now 82, who helped with the rescue.

"The boat didn't turn around and the tide washed the boat sideways against the bridge and wrecked it with people in the water straight away."

Mr Davies, who rescued two boys, added: "I wish I could have done more…but there we are…there's only so much I could do."

Local people including the George III hotel owner and its staff and toll bridge keeper Idris Roberts went to the aid of passengers.

Although a number of the rescuers are still alive, no-one has been officially recognised for bravery in saving 27 lives by pulling them out of the fast flowing incoming tide.

The 45-year-old former Admiralty vessel had been purchased as a passenger-carrying boat in 1936 by brothers John and Harry Lloyd Jones.

While the two were ordered to pay £15 each towards the inquiry costs and Mr Llewelyn £100, no prosecutions were brought.

However, the inquiry did lead to changes in the law governing insurance and the number of passengers boats could carry.

A plaque in memory of the 15 victims will be unveiled at Penmaenpool, near Dolgellau, on Friday.

Image caption Ron Davies went to the rescue of passengers