The Horrendous Ferry Accident That Killed 193 People in 90 Seconds
The true story of the Herald of Free Enterprise.
I was outside on the deck when it started. I was looking over the rail into the water. The water was getting further away; I first thought I imagined it. Then the ship just tilted over, and I was flung backwards. I was knocked unconscious for a while — when I came round, I was lying on the seats. But they were in the wrong place. The ship had gone on its side — so the floor was now like a wall.
I tried to climb up the seating like a ladder but couldn’t. All I wanted to do was get back to my mum. Eventually, I had no choice, so I had to jump into the sea. I was wearing big boots and a denim coat; they were so heavy they dragged me down. I struggled to remove my boots and coat while still trying to swim.
I thought I’d try to swim back to land. But it was so cold; the waves were so ferocious. So I swam back to the boat and hooked my skirt onto a thing sticking out because the waves were dragging me down, and I needed to stay up.
There was a woman near me, and she was holding a little girl above the water. Helicopters were overhead, but they couldn’t see us. So I flung myself back into the sea, there was a fishing boat.
The woman kept screaming, ‘don’t leave me to die’, and I shouted back I would tell rescuers where she was. I don’t know what happened to the woman or the little girl. I tried to find out. I’m pretty sure they both died.
That night I became an adult. I washed my clothes in the sink and dried them on a radiator. I prayed for my mum, hoping I was praying for her and not speaking to her.
The following day I was taken to the makeshift mortuary in a gym. I saw children dead and laid out. They were children I’d seen alive the evening before. It didn’t seem real; they were dead.
Then my brother found my mum. I couldn’t believe I was looking at my mum. I loved her so much, but she was dead before me. She wasn’t just my mum; she was my best friend.
The night before, she’d given me some money just before I went on deck and said, ‘get something to eat, love, and I’ll see you in a minute’. That minute never came. That was the last time I saw her.
As you read this, you might be mistaken for thinking this is the start of a horror novel. But it isn’t.
This is a factual account taken from a 16-year-old survivor of the Herald of Free Enterprise. Her mother, stepfather and uncle died in the accident, while she and her three stepbrothers survived.