A devastated couple fled for their lives after their beloved £50,000 river barge was washed down a river weir – because they forgot to sign up for flood warnings.
Peter and Marian Sycamore were travelling back from a relaxing break on their 60ft houseboat when conditions suddenly became dangerous.
They were sailing along the River Nene when heavy rain and rising water levels began to pull the 14-tonne boat under the surface.
The couple then watched in horror as strong currents caused their retirement-dream boat to smash into Ditchford Lock in Northants.
Luckily Peter and Marian, who had been travelling home to Swavesey, Cambs., from Watford, London, managed to leap off the sinking boat just in time.
The couple say they received no flood warnings, or messages not to travel, despite torrential rain making the stretch of river unsafe for boats.
They thought they been added to the Environment Agency’s emergency warning system – but failed to realise boat owners must sign up for every river they travel on.
Marian, 58, said: “I feel so lucky to be alive. It came to the point when it was almost tilted completely over before I got off.
“We would never do something that would be reckless. I did not receive any emails from the EA Floodline alert telling us not to travel.
“The flags at the lock were green and were not changed to red until after our boat sank. We are really, really upset. We had spent a lot of money doing it up to make it homely.”
Peter, 57, said: “A buoy from the sluice came out of the water and landed on the boat pushing it down into the water.
“That just should not happen. The boat was our pride and joy.
“We were told we were on the alert system but when we called the EA they said we hadn’t been put on it.”
The Environment Agency said river users have to sign up for weather alerts for every waterway they travel on.
A spokesman said: “Signing up for advice on one river does not give up updates for every Anglian waterway.
“People should make sure they are signed up for the specific river they are using.
“A message was sent to every person signed up for River Nene strong stream advice service at 9.30am on Thursday, November 1.
“The advice not to use the River Nene on Floodline was also in place from Thursday morning.
“The flag poles along the River Nene are managed by unpaid volunteers.
“Warning signs are in place at various locations along the river, and they are deployed by Environment Agency operatives who work their way along the waterway when strong stream advice is issued.”
The couple’s boat has yet to be recovered from the water.