THIS WEEK IN 1999: Canal-boat chaos for former City Boys

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A group of friends from Portsmouth described how they were seconds from death when their canal barge sank in a lock in Oxfordshire.

The seven friends, all aged 20 or 21, were former pupils of the City of Portsmouth Boys’ School. Their barge became snagged on the side of the Hardwick Lock and soon filled with water, leaving the boys scrambling off the 60ft boat.

Alan Blunt, Steven Jalban, Becky Charlton, Chris Galvin, Steven Knight and Matt Spanner escaped seconds before the free end of the cast-iron barge plunged 20ft to the bottom of the lock. The seventh member of the party, David Rickman, was on the canal side near the lock gates. 

The six on the barge were only saved because Mr Blunt saw water lapping over the side. 

The friends said they had received no training in how to use locks when they hired the boat from Clifton Cruisers, near Rugby. 

Miss Charlton, who was engaged to Mr Jalban, said: ‘It was our first holiday as a group and we were coming up to the last lock when Alan looked out, turned around and shouted at us to get out.’