Sedgley family: We thought we would die as the Yellow Duckmarine sank in Liverpool

A family of six today told of their terror as they fought for their lives when their boat sank as they enjoyed a trip on the famous Yellow Duckmarine.

Liverpool Duck Boat accident survivors Bill and Susan Ellis with son Stuart, his wife Claire and their children Lauren and Olivia
Liverpool Duck Boat accident survivors Bill and Susan Ellis with son Stuart, his wife Claire and their children Lauren and Olivia

The Ellis family told how the outing turned into a scene from a horror film as the boat sank with 31 people on board.

The family said they feared for their lives as hysteria gripped the frightened passengers. Grandfather Bill Ellis has been hailed a hero after he saved dozens of fellow passengers escape as the boat sank at the historic Albert Dock in Liverpool.

Stuart and Claire Ellis, of Sedgley, who had travelled with their daughters Lauren, aged 11, and Olivia, aged seven, and Stuart’s parents Bill and Susan to Merseyside for Bill’s 70th birthday today spoke of their horror as the boat started to take on water.

The family boarded the amphibious boat on Saturday and were near the end of the tour when disaster struck.

Watch the dramatic footage as the Yellow Duckmarine sinks here:

Speaking back at their home in Queens Road, Claire said the boat’s driver had struggled to get the boat onto the ramp to end the trip so had gone a few metres further out at Salthouse Dock to try again.

The 37-year-old said: “I could see he was trying to kick the gearbox and was trying to get things moving but nothing was happening. Then somebody screamed: ‘There’s water! There’s water!’”

With water rapidly filling the boat, the family of six struggled to pull themselves out through the plastic windows.

Claire, a financial advisor, said: “There was a lot of screaming and the girls were hysterical. The water got to around knee deep before we were able to climb out. Lauren was saying: I’m going to die, I’m going to die. I just kept telling her: you’re not.”

Grandfather Bill pulled himself up onto the roof of the boat and threw the two life-rafts stored there onto the water to help the dozens struggling to swim.

Fighting back tears, Bill, who lives with wife Susan, 66, on Old Barn Road in Wordsley, said: “I just remember thinking: the only chance we’ve got is them (the rafts). I don’t really remember how I got myself up there on the top of the boat. I just had to.”

“If it hadn’t been for him, we wouldn’t be here. We’d be dead,” said Claire.

It took just a few minutes for the boat to sink and although the Ellis family can swim they they found it difficult with wet clothes and shoes weighing them down.

A barge docked nearby came to the rescue but Stuart remained in the water helping those who couldn’t swim.

The family was taken to hospital but, apart from a few bruises, they were uninjured. They did lose everything they had with them – including cameras, an ipad and clothing. Stuart said:

“We came back to Sedgley that night and even had to break into our own house because the keys had gone down too. But you can’t put a price on life and we’re just thankful we’re all ok.”

All of the family, including Lauren, who attends Dormston School and Olivia, who goes to Queen Victoria Primary, have struggled to sleep since the incident. Susan said: “I don’t think I’ve ever seen Bill cry but he cried at the doctor’s today. It just keeps going through your mind. It was sheer terror – like something you see in a movie.”

Bill said: “I don’t think those boats should sail again because I don’t want anybody else to go through what we did.”