A Thames fisherman who lost everything when his houseboat partially sank, spilling oil and contaminating the river at Bishop’s Hall in Kingston last night, admits it will take years to replace his belongings.
Fishing charter business owner Warwick Salzer, 40, has lived on the Thames for 18 years and has appealed to Kingston’s community for help in rebuilding his life.
Originally from South Africa, Mr Salzer said he started to feel his feet get wet and, within a matter of seconds, his boat was filling with water.
He said: “All I had on were my underpants, it went down in less than five minutes.
“90% of my things will have to be ditched. It will take years to get it all replaced.”
He added: “It could have been a hell of a lot worse.”
Blaine Webb, a close friend of Mr Salzer, was also onboard when the boat started to sink.
Mr Webb, a South African electric technical officer, was asleep inside the boat when it started to fill with water and fuel.
He said: “I woke up knee-deep in water, it was coming through the vents, everything inside the boat will be covered in diesel.”
Most of the houseboat’s harmful diesel was contained within the engine’s tank.
The exact cause of the flooding is unknown, but Mr Webb said he suspected there had been a leak somewhere in the boat’s side.
Mr Salazer admitted he was in tears when he realised all his possessions had been ruined by the engine’s diesel.
He also revealed he had just recovered from a motorcycle accident which left him unable to work.
During his recovery, he had kitted out his boat with new fittings which were now destroyed.
Commenting on the emergency services’ response, Mr Salzer said: “They’ve done a stunning job.
“Fair play to them, they came down lightning fast.”
The Fire Service’s Blue Watch attended the incident and, using a hose inflation kit, they managed to reduce harm to wildlife and contain the oil within a small zone by 0837.
The incident was passed to a team of six Environment Agency staff at 1245.
The team efficiently replaced the hose inflation kit with oil absorbent booms to minimise the amount escaping downstream.
An Environment Agency spokesman confirmed the incident was not too severe and amounted to oil iridescence in the water.
He said: “Environment Agency officers attended the scene and they assessed the incident as having a minor impact on the environment, based on the minimal iridescence of oil seen along one bank for around 200m.
“There are swans in the area so we alerted the Swan Sanctuary of the incident and kept them updated throughout the day.”
Kingston’s houseboat community pulled together, with one boat owner providing a pump to attempt to salvage what he could from the wreckage.