British mum dies after fall from riverboat in southern France

A young mum from Britain died Saturday night after falling from a boat which hit a beacon in the Rhone river in Avignon, southern France.

British mum dies after fall from riverboat in southern France
The Rhone river in Avignon. Photo: AFP

The 27-year-old mum, named as Jess Wilkes went overboard and was later found by divers at a depth of six metres, the fire service told AFP.

Five others, including another Briton, were injured in the incident.

The victim, a PA for an architect design firm in London, died on a trip to celebrate her boss’s birthday. 

Her devastated family paid tribute to their “larger than life” daughter, who was with her boyfriend at the time of the accident.

(Jess Wilkes/Facebook)

Dad Bernard Wilkes, 72, of Lamberhurst, Tunbridge Wells, told The Sun: “What can a father say about losing his only daughter?

“She was a beautiful young girl who lived life to the full. She had a love for life.

“At the moment we’re just in tears. She was beautiful and full of life. She had a seven-year-old daughter.”

Grieving friends also posted tributes to the victim (pictured below right) on Facebook.

Her friend Stefanie Menga said: “No word can describe this awful pain in my heart.”

Eight friends aged between 20 and 30 — four French and four British — were on board the seven metre boat with a pilot aged around 50 when it struck the beacon at 10:45 pm (2045 GMT) on Saturday.

Five were taken to local hospitals after the incident, two with serious injuries. An investigation has been launched to determine the circumstances.

“Everyone is in shock,” police said.

“The victims have not been questioned, nor the witnesses.”

Local reports state that the small shuttle boat was ferrying passengers between the shore and a large tourist boat when it struck the iron beacon.

An officer with the rescue services said: “There was a metal marker post in the middle of the river to alert boats to watch out for a nearby bridge. The shuttle boat hit this and the woman was catapulted into the water.”




Avignon festival ‘to be moved’ if far right win

The organizers of France's famous Avignon Arts Festival have threatened to pull the plug on the event after the National Front topped the polls in the historic town in the first round of the local elections.

Avignon festival 'to be moved' if far right win
Artists parade on July 7th, 2013 in front of the Palais des Papes in Avignon during the opening parade of the 67th Avignon International Theatre Festival. Photo: Boris Horvat/AFP

The Avignon Arts Festival will quit the southern French city if the National Front (FN) wins the mayor's office, organizers warned on Monday, a day after the far-right party topped the polls in the first round of local elections.

"I cannot work with a National Front mayor's office. That is for me something unimaginable," the festival's director Olivier Py told France Info radio.

Py said the founding principles of France's best-known arts festival were at odds with the anti-immigration, nationalist agenda of the FN.

"I cannot see how the festival could survive and defend its ideals which are those of openness and of welcoming others. I don't see how the festival could remain in Avignon," he said.

"Therefore I think we would leave. There is no other solution."

Iconoclastic subjects and an international cast of performers have long been a feature of the celebrated and long-running summer festival.

It was founded in 1947 by the actor and director Jean Vilar when he was invited to present his hugely successful version of T.S. Eliot's "Murder in the Cathedral" in Avignon's Papal Palace.

An FN list headed by mayoral candidate Philippe Lottiaux claimed 29.54 percent of votes cast in the city on Sunday, edging the Socialist Party's Cecile Helle by just 27 votes.

The two leaders will be joined in a four-way run-off this coming Sunday which will also feature candidates from the centre-right UMP party and the far-left Left Front which claimed just under 21 percent and 12.5 percent of the first round votes respectively.

The FN's showing reflected a strong performance nationwide and the anti-immigration party is expected to emerge from the second round in control of up to 15 towns — although Avignon is not considered amongst those most likely to fall to the party led by Marine le Pen.

The Avignon festival is held in July in the courtyard of the Pope's Palace and other historical venues in the city and attracts performers and audiences from around the world.

Alongside the official festival, there are a number of fringe events and spectacles that draw huge crowds.