Tower RNLI Lifeboat crew save frightened man in danger of drowning under pier
A man who was clinging onto a wooden pier to prevent himself being swept away by the Thames in full flood has been rescued by the Tower RNLI lifeboat crew based by Waterloo Bridge.
With the man in imminent danger of drowning and because of his position, inside the wooden structure of the pier, helmsman Steve King had to take the highly unusual decision to don his dry suit and jump into the river to grab hold of him.
The lifeboat had been tasked to Trafalgar Court, Shadwell Basin, Wapping, by HM Coastguard at 1.54pm on Sunday 1 July following reports the man had become trapped within the circular wooden pier. Lifeboat helm Stan Todd, who was recently awarded the MBE for saving lives on the coast and the Thames, made best speed navigating the Tower lifeboat Hurley Burly through the busy Thames river traffic.
On arrival at the scene it was immediately clear the casualty was in imminent danger of drowning. London Marine Police were already on the scene, but since he was within the pier, neither the lifeboat or police boat were able to get close enough to rescue him. At the time the tide was in full flood, with significant rise and fall and tidal wash.
The casualty was clearly tiring and scared, so helm Steve King put on a dry suit and ILB lifejacket while volunteer mechanic Robert Archibald and volunteer Adam Garland assessed the man’s condition, prepared lines and a survivor’s lifejacket to expedite a speedy rescue.
Steve entered the water downstream of the man and swam hard against the pushing tide to reach him with a lifejacket and a throw line. The man was clearly in shock and clinging to a post, which he was not prepared to let go. Steve managed to get the man into a rope strop that Robert, Adam and the Marine Police pulled towards the exit point of the enclosed pier.
‘It’s very rare that we go into the water, it’s a last resort,’ said Steve. ‘We couldn’t get a boat in there, no-one else could get in so we had to go in. I didn’t know what was in there and I wasn’t able to touch the bottom’.
The man was guided through the pier into the hands of Robert and Adam (who volunteers for the RNLI, but whose full-time job is as a doctor) and they both lifted him into the safety of the lifeboat where casualty care was immediately initiated. The man was conscious, but was cold and in shock. Since he had been in the water for some time there were concerns he may also have been suffering from hypothermia. He was given oxygen and steps were taken to warm him up.
Helm Stan Todd opted to move the casualty to the safety of Wapping Police Pier, having communicated with the London Coastguard to arrange for urgent medical assistance. Once there the casualty was transferred using the stretcher onto the pier where the London Ambulance Service were in attendance and who checked for further injuries and took over the man’s care.
‘This call demonstrates the core principles of being an RNLI volunteer – Selflessness, determination and teamwork to save life,’ said Tower helm Steve King. ‘This gentleman would not have survived due to his location and clinical state had the lifeboat crew not have acted in the swift manor they had done so’.
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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.