Only seconds to spare as man’s life saved by Tower Lifeboat crew

Lifeboats News Release

A man was plucked from the Thames by the Tower RNLI lifeboat crew last night just seconds before he was lost under a closed arch at Blackfriars Railway Bridge where it is likely he would have drowned.

The lifeboat crew were called into action at 10.26pm following reports of a man in the water at Southwark Bridge. Within a minute the lifeboat was at the Millennium Bridge where an object was spotted in the water behind a passenger vessel.

The crew of the passenger vessel then directed the lifeboat crew to its starboard side where two kayakers had also spotted the man in the water.

The lifeboat crew searched the water, but it appeared the man has disappeared below the surface. On an incoming tide the lifeboat continued back up river towards Blackfriars Railway Bridge and recovered a backpack which had been spotted floating in the water.

By this time the Chiswick RNLI lifeboat, which had been at Tower lifeboat station to re-fuel, had also joined the search for the missing man, with the crew scanning the south side of the river around Bankside lay-by.

Anticipating the path the incoming tide would have taken the man, the Tower crew proceeded along the north side of the river towards the second arch of Blackfriars Railway Bridge.

The crew used searchlights to scan either side of the lifeboat when crew member Helen Church caught sight of the man as he surfaced. The boat was quickly placed alongside and all three crew, including Jai Gudgion on helm, pulled him on board.

The man was breathing, but being sick as a result of ingesting water and he was taken back to Tower Lifeboat station by Waterloo Bridge where the crew of the Chiswick RNLI lifeboat helped with getting him from the pontoon to the medical room. Shortly afterwards paramedics from the London Ambulance Service and London Air Ambulance arrived at the lifeboat station and he was taken to hospital.

“It was a great spot by Helen on the crew,” said Jai. “Although other vessels were present during the search no other vessel was nearby when the man briefly surfaced. He was quickly drifting towards a closed arch at Blackfriars and had limited time on the surface’.

‘There were lots of snags under the arch and he would probably have been pulled under so we feel this is a life saved*,’ he added.

The rescue is a great example of how the RNLI’s specialist knowledge of the river can be crucial in identifying where a person in the water can be found, particularly during fast flowing incoming or outgoing tides.

Tower lifeboat crew on this call: Helen Church, Colin McCarthy, Jai Gudgion (helm)

* Life saved is a specific RNLI term which is decided after careful analysis of a range of criteria. A rescue is categorised as a life saved where, if it weren’t for the intervention of the RNLI, a person would most likely have died.

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