Staff from the Environmental Agency have been clearing part of a wall near the Botley Bridge this afternoon to remove a narrowboat.

They have been using a digger to clear the wall to allow them to reach the boat, which capsized on Monday.

Boat owner John Simmonds, who has Asperger's syndrome, said he has "lost his entire life."

He invested his £60,000 life savings into the narrowboat, which crashed into Botley Bridge on Monday and remains stricken despite a rescue operation.

The 35-year-old said: “I have quite literally seen my life sink to the bottom of the Thames and I don’t know where to go from here.

“All I have left is the shoes on my feet.”

Oxford Mail:

Mr Simmonds had been on the boat all morning and only left it for half an hour at about 2.30pm to get some food from Frideswide Square.

He said: “By the time I came back there was a huge crowd of people on the bridge and lots of blue flashing lights.

“I suddenly realised it was my boat they were all looking at and it was stuck by the bridge and I thought it could well sink.

“It all became too overwhelming for me so I hid away from the river and just sat down on the floor and cried.”

Once he had calmed himself down, Mr Simmonds went to investigate the area where he had moored ‘One Old Peculier’.

He said: “When I moored the boat, I tied four ropes to four separate poles, in addition to putting lots of sandbags around it.

“But when I came back there were four perfect holes in the ground and no sign of struggle, and the sandbags had been chucked to the other side of the riverbank.

“Bad weather doesn’t make that kind of thing happen.”

The self-employed IT specialist first moored his boat by Botley Bridge four years ago on land that has been the subject of dispute, with the city council originally not owning the towpath next to the boat before acquiring it about two years ago, effectively making him a squatter.

Mr Simmonds, who is currently staying with friends, bought the boat to provide some stability in his life as his Aspergers means he struggles to maintain a fixed job.

But after forgetting to pay his boat insurance two months ago, he fears he will be unable to restore his boat to its original condition.

Another boat on the site – owned by James Kelly – also crashed into the bridge on Monday.

Mr Kelly said: “Luckily I was barely affected by what happened but I feel bad for John.”

He hailed Mr Simmonds a hero for saving the lives of two people involved in a boat fire near Osney Bridge 15 months ago.

He said: “What John did was absolutely amazing, especially considering his Aspergers, and I think it’s time people stepped up and helped a man who has done so much for the community and saved people’s lives.”

The boat remains just above the waterline having been buoyed by airbags deployed by the Environment Agency (EA), which had previously secured the vessel and raised it from the Thames bed.

The EA said it was waiting for the boat to dry out before deciding how to remove it from its position blocking the river passage.

The EA blamed the incident on inclement weather, while the police have not received any reports in relation to the alleged sabotage.

* If you would like to donate money, clothes, food or aid to Mr Simmonds contact the Oxford Mail on 01865 425373.

* Please send cheques made out to John Simmonds to: Oxford Mail, Newspaper House, Osney Mead, Oxford, OX2 0EJ