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Duke backs Safer Thames Campaign

Lifeboats News Release

HRH The Duke of Cambridge took to the Thames in central London today to highlight a new campaign enlisting the public’s help in preventing drowning on the tidal river.

Gianna Saccomani (Teddington crew), Jenny Barnett & Steve Doherty (Tower crew) and Natalie Adams (Gravesend crew)

RNLI/Paul Dunt

Thames RNLI crew members who met HRH The Duke of Cambridge today

Prince William met frontline staff from the organisations involved in a new partnership working to reduce the estimated 700 incidents that occur each year on the river, where people’s lives are at risk. Annually there are around 30 fatalities, the majority of which are linked to mental health issues.

The Port of London Authority (PLA), the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), London Fire Brigade (LFB), Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), London Ambulance Service (LAS) and Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) have come together to produce a Drowning Prevention Strategy for the tidal Thames along it’s 95-mile course, from Teddington to the North Sea.

The organisations have issued a call for people from all walks of life to play their part in saving lives, by following safety advice and having the confidence to intervene when they spot someone in danger or in crisis along the capital’s river.

A crucial ask of the public is call to 999 and ask for the coastguard, rather than to go into the water after someone in difficulty, or to rescue any animals in the river.

Mark Towens, the PLA’s harbour master for the river through central London, chairs the Tidal Thames Water Safety Forum (TTWSF). He said: 'The Thames is central to London’s past, present and future and is an asset we want everyone to be able to enjoy, but it’s also a very dangerous place. Flowing at twice the speed of an Olympic swimmer and with a daily tidal rise and fall of seven metres, the river’s power to take lives should never be underestimated.

'Factors such as the impact of ‘cold water shock’ mean that people who end up in the tidal Thames, for whatever reason, can drown in a matter of minutes, so it’s vital we all work together to stop people entering the river in the first place.'

In January 2008, a simple 'Hello, how are you?' from Neil Laybourn was the trigger to a conversation, which saved a complete stranger, Jonny Benjamin, who had been on the verge of trying to take his own life in central London.

Reunited six years later, the pair has gone on to found the mental health charity Beyond Shame Beyond Stigma and both spoke at the launch of the new strategy near Tower Bridge this morning.

Jonny Benjamin said: “The most important thing about Neil’s intervention in my case was the time and effort he made to listen carefully to how I was feeling. Initially I just wanted to be left alone, but his empathy, concern and words of hope literally saved my life.”

The TTWSF members, along with Transport for London, also today signed up to extend the Samaritans “Small Talk Saves Lives” campaign to the river, an initiative originally developed in partnership with Network Rail.

Along with awareness campaigns targeting young people, other measures to be developed by the TTWSF include working with voluntary groups to supervise bridges and the integration of more mental health nurses and practitioners into the Metropolitan Police’s Marine Unit, to improve the care, treatment and support immediately available to people found in crisis at Thames-side locations.


NOTES FOR EDITORS

· The strategy is available to read here: https://server1.pla.co.uk/assets/drowningpreventionstrategy.pdf

Relatives of people who have drowned as a result of accidents are available for interview. Please contact: Nick Tennant (07784 208874).

· A You-Tube film showing highlights of the Duke’s visit, with contributions from Jonny Benjamin, Neil Laybourn and representatives of the TTWSF talking about their work will be posted later this week.

For further information:

· Samaritans Nithiya Gnanathas - 020 8394 8300 press@samaritans.org

· PLA - Nick Tennant - 07784 208874 nick.tennant@pla.co.uk

· LFB - Rob McTaggart - 020 8536 5922 rob.mctaggart@london-fire.gov.uk

· Met Police - Laura Wilson - 07768 262295 laura.wilson@met.police.uk

· RNLI - Paul Dunt - 07785 296252 paul_dunt@rnli.org.uk

· London Ambulance Service (Press Office) - 020 7783 2286

· MCA (Press Office) - 0203 817 2222 public.relations@mcga.gov.uk

· Neil Laybourn & Jonny Benjamin - neil.laybourn@tchevents.com


HRH The Duke of Cambridge meets Al Kassim, Tower RNLI crew member

RNLI/Paul Dunt

HRH The Duke of Cambridge meets Al Kassim, Tower RNLI crew member

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