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Tower lifeboat crew praise heroic holidaymaker for help with River Thames rescue

Lifeboats News Release

RNLI lifeboat crew members in London have praised a holidaymaker for her part in helping to save a woman who was seconds away from drowning in the River Thames this week.

The drama unfolded on Monday (25 July) when London Coastguard requested the Tower lifeboat crew launch, after reports a woman was in the river by Bankside Pier, near Shakespeare’s Globe theatre.

The crew rushed to the scene where they found a member of the public gripping the hand of a woman in the water. With the casualty in one hand, she herself was being assisted by an employee of London’s Thames RIB Experience, who had moored up one of their vessels by the pier.

The would-be rescuer, Scottish holidaymaker Natalie Harrison, was keeping the casualty afloat, stopping her from drifting away in the dangerous tidal flow of the Thames.

Steve King, full time lifeboat helmsman at Tower RNLI lifeboat station, said if it were not for her actions, the lady in the river may not have survived, and described what she did as “a risky, but utterly selfless and incredible act of public service.”

The lifeboat crew launched at 4.50pm and arrived on scene at 4.52pm. Steve said: ‘As they came into sight we saw this blonde haired figure hanging over the safety barrier and holding onto the woman in the water. I had to squeeze our lifeboat into a very small gap and it was very tricky to manoeuvre our port side near to the pier so that we could get her onboard.

‘We got in close and one of the staff from the Thames RIB experience boarded the lifeboat to help us pull the woman from the river. If it wasn’t for Natalie’s heroic efforts she may have already gone under and we might not have been able to save her.’

The woman in the water, estimated to be in her late 20 or early 30s, was conscious and was breathing when she was pulled onto the lifeboat, but was wet, cold, and distressed.

Steve continued: ‘Whilst en-route back to our station near Waterloo Bridge we requested an ambulance meet us there. The woman was assessed and, when we arrived, taken into the casualty care room until the London Ambulance Service and Marine Police could look after her.

‘As a general rule, the RNLI doesn’t encourage what Natalie did – if people enter the river or sea to try to rescue others they risk getting into difficulty themselves, which exacerbates the rescue situation for emergency services. We normally advise people to raise the alarm and call the Coastguard.

‘That said, there’s no denying what she did was utterly selfless, an incredible act of public service. I believe she was on holiday in London and was nearby when she saw the woman in the water, and acted immediately to help. The woman in the river was vulnerable and me and my fellow lifeboat crew members feel Natalie’s brave actions may well have saved that woman’s life.’

The RNLI is currently in the midst of its annual Respect the Water campaign, a safety initiative aimed at reducing the number of accidental drownings around our coastline and in inland waters. For information and safety advice, visit

RNLI media contacts

• Tim Ash, RNLI Public Relations Manager (London/East/South East) on 0207 6207426, 07785 296252

• Sophie Coller-Nielsen Press Officer (London/East/South East), 0207 6207416, 07824 416615 email

• For enquiries outside normal business hours, contact the RNLI duty press officer on 01202 336789

Key facts about the RNLI

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is the charity that saves lives at sea. Our volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service in the United Kingdom and Ireland from 238 lifeboat stations, including four along the River Thames and inland lifeboat stations at Loch Ness, Lough Derg, Enniskillen, Carrybridge and Lough Ree. Additionally the RNLI has more than 1,000 lifeguards on over 240 beaches around the UK and operates a specialist flood rescue team, which can respond anywhere across the UK and Ireland when inland flooding puts lives at risk.

The RNLI relies on public donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. As a charity it is separate from, but works alongside, government-controlled and funded coastguard services. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824 our lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved at least 140,000 lives. Volunteers make up 95% of the charity, including 4,600 volunteer lifeboat crew members and 3,000 volunteer shore crew. Additionally, tens of thousands of other dedicated volunteers raise funds and awareness, give safety advice, and help in our museums, shops and offices.

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Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 or by email.


The RNLI is a charity registered in England and Wales (209603) and Scotland (SC037736). Charity number 20003326 in the Republic of Ireland