Contact and sinking of narrow boat Drum Major with loss of 4 lives

Location: Descending in Steg Neck Lock on the Leeds and Liverpool canal near Gargrave, England.

Accident Investigation Report: Drum Major

Read our marine accident investigation report, which includes what happened, actions taken, and recommendations:

Drum Major.pdf (1,402.03 kb)


On 19 August 1998 a narrow boat on holiday hire foundered with the loss of four lives. The accident happened while Drum Major descended Steg Neck Lock near Gargrave, North Yorkshire, England. The boat was positioned too far forward in the lock and foundered due to an uncontrolled ingress of water. Attempts to rescue four disabled people trapped inside were unsuccessful.

Safety Issues

The cause of the foundering was an uncontrolled ingress of water into Drum Major while she was descending in the lock. A main contributory cause was that she was positioned too far forward in the lock, contrary to the advice provided in the Waterways Code for Boaters, which is issued by British Waterways.


The report makes a number of recommendations addressed to British Waterways with respect to the reporting and analysis of accidents and hazardous incidents, the adequacy of narrow boat emergency escape routes, and the fitting of weak securing arrangements to bow fenders of the type on Drum Major.

This report was published on 20 December 1999.

Published 23 January 2015