Teddington RNLI lifeboat volunteers launch to rescue kayaker
At 3.03pm on Sunday 5 March, volunteer lifeboat crew members at Teddington RNLI Lifeboat Station were paged to reports of a kayaker who had capsized near Teddington weir.
The weir is the largest on the River Thames, with twenty gates and a high degree of flow at many times of the year, presenting the most significant potential hazard on the station’s patch as it is a very busy area for recreational river-users in boats of all types.
Unusually, Teddington RNLI has two D-class inshore lifeboats, D-785 Peter Saw and D-743 Olwen and Tom, primarily to deal with incidents on and around the weir.
Because of the nature of the incident, both the Peter Saw and Olwen and Tom were launched immediately, the former heading upstream through Teddington Lock to the top of the weir, and the latter heading directly to the large pool below the weir.
Both lifeboats arrived on scene within minutes. Helm Andy Butterfield and crew Jon Chapman and Mark Gibbs, onboard the Peter Saw, quickly located the kayaker who was in a precarious position on planking between two wooden uprights at the top of a weir outfall.
Andy manoeuvred the boat against the planking in the strong stream and gusting wind. The kayaker, who was very cold and unable to move readily, was then helped onto the boat, taken swiftly to Richmond Police officers on the riverbank, and assisted by them to a nearby ambulance.
Throughout this, helm Jon Barker and crew Andy Bell and Paul Stallard, aboard Olwen and Tom, had been stationed 10 feet below and directly under the weir outfall by the kayaker’s position, in readiness for any unintended, and potentially very dangerous, fall into the weir pool.
The crew of Peter Saw then recovered the kayaker’s boat and paddle. Both boats were stood down by the UK Coastguard and returned to station. On the way, Peter Saw's crew were able to moor up and ascertain the condition of the kayaker from the attending ambulance crew. He was extremely cold but otherwise uninjured.
Once the lifeboats were made ready for service, the crew returned to their normal Sunday afternoon activities, in the case of Mark “Gibbo” Gibbs, back to bed after a busy night shift as a Met Police officer with Hammersmith and Fulham!
Andy Butterfield said: ‘This successful operation was a great piece of teamwork between our two lifeboats and a very good illustration of how important they are for weir-related incidents. Having Olwen and Tom on standby below our position at the top of the weir throughout provided a vital degree of safety cover as we extracted the casualty from what was a tricky position.’
RNLI media contacts
• Manon Jones, Teddington RNLI Press Officer, 07715 271667 / firstname.lastname@example.org
• Tim Ash, RNLI Public Relations Manager (London/East/South East)
0207 6207426 / 07785 296252 / email@example.com
• For enquiries outside normal business hours, contact the RNLI duty press officer on 01202 336789
Key facts about the RNLI
The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and, in a normal year, more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.