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Teddington RNLI help in rescue of 12-year-old girl from River Thames

Lifeboats News Release

On Wednesday 24 June 2020, Teddington RNLI Lifeboat Crew helped in the rescue of a 12-year-old girl from the River Thames at Teddington Lock at 6:31pm.

RNLI/Paul Stallard

Teddington Lock, River Thames by Paul Stallard.

Teddington RNLI Volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer and Crew Paul Stallard was off-duty and sitting with a friend, only ten metres from the incident, close to the lock. It was a busy evening with lots of people of all ages all along the banks of the River Thames, close to Teddington Lock and the Footbridge. Everyone was enjoying themselves in the beautiful summer sunshine.

As Paul explains, I first noticed a teenage boy carrying a young girl in his arms to the grassy bank near where we were sitting. They were both dripping wet and he put towels on her to keep her warm. A policeman on patrol quickly assessed the situation. When the boy became more anxious, I decided to walk over and offer my assistance to the policeman, explaining that I am in Teddington RNLI and Casualty Care/Emergency First Aid trained. He was appreciative and agreed for me to assess the girl and help to reassure the boy. With all of us keeping at a safe social distance, the boy told me he was her 18-year-old brother. Apparently, his sister had been swimming in the Thames with friends and hit her head on a ledge while jumping back into the river and then got into difficulty. Her brother pulled her out of the water and carried her to safety near the lock keeper’s cottage.

He continues, It became apparent to me that his sister was showing signs of concussion, was very pale and in danger of deteriorating in her condition. She was alert but said she was feeling drowsy and cold and could not remember what happened. I kept talking to her to keep her awake and she informed me of her love of sport, so we had a conversation around that.

I didn’t want to take any risks of her losing consciousness or suffering potential secondary drowning either so I quickly phoned one of our most experienced Teddington RNLI helms, Tim James and shared the on-scene situation with him. We both agreed that he would inform London Coastguard and an ambulance would be called immediately. I also asked Tim for some back up and he contacted Teddington RNLI helm, Jon Barker and former Teddington RNLI crew Howard Evans who live close to the river.

Tim James takes up the story, On Wednesday evening whilst sat in the garden in Hampton Wick watching the now familiar scene of many, many people, enjoying the river and warm weather, swimming, kayaking and paddle boarding on the river I received a call from lifeboat crew mate Paul. So rather than waste any time, I asked Paul for key information in the same way as if I'd been there myself.

Was she or anyone else in any Danger, was she Responsive, did she have a Catastrophic or life threatening bleed? Then I asked him to confirm that she had a good Airway, that she was Breathing and that she had good Circulation. This was done using the mnemonic DRCABC and takes no more than 30 seconds, but once the assessment is done it guides the next steps.

He said she was talking, but very cold and drowsy. I then asked him to confirm whether she had been under water and possibly swallowed any water. Once he confirmed that she had and that she had banged her head on entering the water, I then called London Coastguard, relayed the information and within two minutes an ambulance and fast response Paramedic were dispatched as this was considered a high priority call.

This was due to the girl's age and the possibility of hypothermia. Despite this being the hottest day of the year, the water is still cold and can also cause cold water shock. She may have also inhaled water which can cause secondary drowning up to 48 hours later and this needs to be identified using an ultra sound scan.

I then called another member of the crew, Jon Barker, who lives next to the lock to assist Paul with any other medical interventions that may be needed before the ambulance crew arrived, he also called on trusty crew mate and next door neighbour Howard. Then I called Gemma Riley, the Environment Agency's Head lock keeper at Teddington Lock, to ask her to open the gate on the road leading to the lock to make sure the ambulance was not delayed.

Paul continues: Jon and Howard were on scene within a few minutes of Tim’s call and helped me to monitor the situation. The girl was becoming more shivery so I asked the policeman if I could borrow his police vest to add another layer of warmth and he said of course. Even in hot weather, the River Thames is deceptive and under the first metre of surface water the temperature is extremely cold. The effects on someone jumping in can be cold water shock which is potentially serious and can lead to drowning or hypothermia.

I was determined to help the girl as best I could. The policeman ensured that members of the public kept clear, socially distanced and calm. We continually assessed the girl and reassured the boy. Her mum then arrived and was understandably upset. The RNLI Casualty Care/Emergency First Aid training of myself, Jon and Howard together with the professionalism of the policeman ensured we collectively kept the casualty stable and her brother and mum calm.

The brother did great of course in helping his sister out of the water and carrying her to safety in the first place. Myself and my Teddington RNLI colleagues just did what we are trained to do. London Ambulance Service arrived within a few minutes of my call to Tim James and it was a huge relief.

The policeman gave London Ambulance Service a debrief of the whole situation and they then took over proceedings.

Tim adds: Within a few minutes both Jon and Paul confirmed that the ambulance crew had assessed the young girl, were keeping her warm in the ambulance and were taking her off to hospital for further checks. So all in all this was a very good outcome to, what could have been, a potentially life changing event.

Please use and enjoy the river safely, wear a life jacket or buoyancy aid and remember even on the hottest days, the water is still very cold. Finally, if you do see someone in difficulty in the water on the River Thames please dial 999 and ask for the London Coastguard. Do not assume that someone else has already called for help.

Notes to editors

  • Crew interviews available on request
RNLI media contacts
  • Paul Stallard, Teddington RNLI Lifeboat Press Officer and Crew
07879 810 817 / [email protected]
  • Gianna Saccomani, Teddington RNLI Deputy Lifeboat Press Officer and Crew
07798 905515 / [email protected]
  • Paul Dunt, RNLI Media Officer London/South East Tel: 0207 6207426 Mob: 07785 296252/ [email protected]
  • For enquiries outside normal business hours, contact the RNLI duty press officer on 01202 336789

RNLI/Paul Harries

Volunteer Teddington RNLI crew members Howard Evans, Tim James and Jon Barker.

RNLI/Jon Barker

Volunteer Teddington RNLI Crew Member Paul Stallard


The London Ambulance Service took the casualty to the hospital.

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