Search

Lifeguard hero from Highgate saves man drowning in the River Thames

PUBLISHED: 08:00 10 April 2014 | UPDATED: 11:25 14 April 2014

The crew from the Tower Lifeboat Pier rescue the man from the Thames. Picture: RNLI

The crew from the Tower Lifeboat Pier rescue the man from the Thames. Picture: RNLI

Archant

A volunteer lifeboat crew member from Highgate saved a man clinging to a barge by his fingertips from drowning in the Thames in a dramatic night-time rescue.

Stephen Wheatley helped save the man clinging for his life in the Thames. Picture: Jonathan Goldberg Stephen Wheatley helped save the man clinging for his life in the Thames. Picture: Jonathan Goldberg

Stephen Wheatley was part of a crew of three volunteers from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) who raced to rescue the man near the decommissioned Royal Navy war ship HMS Belfast, close to London Bridge, last week.

The 58-year-old said the unidentified man was lucky to survive.

“If he had let go, he would have gone under the barge and then it’s a lottery,” said Mr Wheatley, a managing director of a technology company, who lives in Avenue Road. “I don’t know if he would have come up again.”

Mr Wheatley and his two colleagues, based at Tower Lifeboat Station near Waterloo Bridge, were discussing what to have for dinner when they were alerted to an emergency just after 8pm last Wednesday.

They pulled on their lifeguard suits and were in a lifeboat in just under a minute.

The London Coastguard informed them by radio where to find the man, who was desperately clinging onto a driftwood collecting barge – a boat that filters rubbish and debris floating on the Thames.

The lifeboat powered along the river until the crew spotted the man and Mr Wheatley and his colleague Stuart Morrison pulled him into the lifeboat to safety.

Helmsman Chris Walker then sped to St Katharine’s Docks, where an ambulance was waiting.

Mr Wheatley, who has served as a volunteer lifeboat crew member since 2005, working 12-hour shifts after a full day’s work at least twice a month, said: “It’s a remarkable feeling.

“I know that if the RNLI said to me now that I couldn’t do this any longer, I would think about the time I spent in the lifeboat and feel it was worth it.

“It’s a real privilege. The RNLI is a spectacular organisation and we are very fortunate as a nation to have this kind of service provided by a charity.

“Apart from my wife and family, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.”

Mr Wheatley said the rescued man was very cold and confused but able to speak and walk.

The London Ambulance Service was unable to confirm the man’s identity but Mr Wheatley believed him to be a 22-year-old Italian.

It is not known how he entered the water.

The Tower Lifeboat Station is the UK’s busiest, last year rescuing 128 people and saving 19 lives.

The RNLI needs volunteers to collect donations at Waterloo Station on April 29 during London Lifeboat Week, which runs from April 28 to May 4.

n To sign up, visit: http://bit.ly/1mUzjdd

Latest Hampstead & Highgate News Stories

18:10

Haringey Council has given a ‘cast iron’ guarantee 11 affordable homes will be included in plans to redevelop the area around Hornsey Town Hall.

08:15

Two men have been charged with murder after a charity worker was stabbed to death in Little Venice on Monday.

10:12

Drivers who ‘idle’ are set to be given fixed penalty notices if a motion presented to Camden council is approved.

Yesterday, 17:56

The Trustcott Arms in Maida Vale is to re-open as a restaurant.

Yesterday, 16:52

Camden recorded the third highest amount of crimes across London in the 12 months up until June of this year.

Yesterday, 12:08

A woman who illegally sublet her Holborn council flat will have to do 200 hours of community service, and could be made to repay the £19,000 she made from the crime.

Wed, 14:35

Camden has topped a London-wide count of moped-related crimes, figures released today show.

Wed, 14:02

A man has been jailed after he abducted a two-year-old child in a McDonalds in Camden.

PROMOTED CONTENT

If you are a pet owner, maybe you can empathise with this familiar tale.

Japanese baby and children’s clothing company Familiar is making their first venture into Europe with a pop up event in Hampstead

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Most read Hampstead & Highgate news

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now