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Bedfordshire Times, 18 July 1857

THREE PERSONS DROWNED - That portion of the River Ouse, near the viaduct in the parish of Sharnbrook was on Monday afternnoon, the scene of a lamentable and distressing occurrence. It was the annual festival, when the villagers were accustomed to entertain their friends, and participate in the enjoyments peculiar to the season. George Prentice (31), his wife Sarah (29), and her sister Ann Stoker (21), with a view of having a short trip on the river and for other reasons stated in evidence below, placed themselves on a large raft near the viaduct, but which they afterwards exchanged for a smaller one. These rafts were constructed during the progress of the railway, and have remained on the river ever since. The parties pushed off from the bank, but on reaching the middle of the stream their position became critical, the water flowed over the planks and Prentice perceiving the danger turned the raft back to shore. On coming close to the side the females attempted to jump onto the bank, but missed their footing and instantly fell into the water and disappeared. George Prentice , who had remained on the raft, threw off his coat and regardless of all consequences jumped into the water to recover his companions, but he also sank to rise no more, A female who had warned the parties of their danger in choosing the small raft, gave an alarm, but one hour elapsed before the bodies were recovered.The females were discovered firmly clasped in each others arms:the body of the man was close to them. It is supposed that when the man dived into the water he was seized by one or both of the women, or became so entangled with them as to be incapable of rendering the slightest aid, and in his endeavour to save their lives lost his own.At the place where the sad catastrophe occurred the bank does not slope gradually , but falls abrubtly into a hollow , and the water being very deep, any attempt at landing from a boat or raft is rendered extremely difficult and dangerous. As may be easily imagined, the melancholy circumstance has caused a painful sensation in the neighbourhood. On Wednesday, Mr. Eagles, the county coroner, held an inquest on the bodies. The following witnesses were examined:- Elizabeth Bayes sworn: I am the wife of Josiah Bayes, of Sharnbrook. I knew the three deceased, George Prentice, Sarah Prentice his wife, and Ann Stocker. George Prentice was an agricultural labourer, Ann Stocker was sitting in my house on Monday afternoon last. The sister, Sarah Prentice came to us and called her and she went out. I followed to see what Sarah Prentice wanted her for. She said she wanted her to go with her on the raft, in order to keep her husband from the publichouse. It was Sharnbrook feast. The raft is on the River Ouse near the viaduct. Th raft was laid down by the men forming the railway. It is composed of a few planks nailed together. It does not extend across the river, but is pushed across. Ann Hayes sworn:- I am the wife of Charles Hayes, a platelayer, living at Sharnbrook close to the river and railway. I knew the three deceased persons. Monday was Sharnbrook feast. There is a raft on the river about half a mile from Sharnbrook village. About three o'clock on Monday afternoon last I was at my cottage door. I saw the three deceased persons pass my door and go down to the rafts. There is a large raft and a small one. The large one is called a punt. It consists of more than a dozen planks fixed together. The three got on to the large raft. George Prentice got off afterwards and got on the small one. The two women went after him on to the small one.The river is about 40 yards wide at that place. George prntice took the bat to push them across, and when they had reached the middle of the river, I saw the water flowing over the planks. Prentice tried to turn them to push them back to the shore. When they got back close to the side I believe I saw the two women jump or try to jump on to the bank. I heard a splash and missed the two women. George called out "Dont helloa" and immediately jumped in. I went for help immediately. The first person I saw was about a hundred yards off. A man named Burr and several others ran immediately with me to the water, and soon after the deceased man's hat and one of the women's bonnets were found. It was an hour before the bodies were got out. George Prentice tried to save his companions. The deceased women screamed very much. I believe the water to be deep where this happened. The deceased George Prentice did not seem to be tipsy. I thought it dangerous to take the women on the raft, and I thought it was in consequence of what I said that Prentice turned back when crossing the river. The jury returned a verdict of accidentally drowned.

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