Search

Lifeguard hero from Highgate saves man drowning in the River Thames

08:00 10 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 GoldbergStephen 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

0 comments

Latest Hampstead & Highgate News Stories

15:00

Sadiq Khan will carry out a wide-reaching inquiry into foreign companies buying property in the capital - amid concern the flood of investment has fuelled rocketing house prices in local boroughs.

13:06

The Ham and High can today reveal the filthiest local restaurants and takeaways which officials say need “urgent improvement”

A police officer will not face criminal charges after being filmed repeatedly striking a man with his baton during an arrest even though the police watchdog found he has a case to answer.

Firearms officers raced to Prince of Wales Road in Kentish Town on Thursday evening to reports a man had been gunned down.

07:39

Campaigners are celebrating a double victory in their ongoing battle to stop Hampstead pubs being shut down by developers.

The Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum has succeeded in getting two more much-loved pubs special blanket protection by being listed as “assets of community value” (ACV) by Camden Council.

Yesterday, 18:00

Plans to stack phone masts on top of a block of flats in Belsize Park have been making waves with angry residents

Yesterday, 17:38

A popular cafe in Waterlow Park is being dismantled prompting an outpouring of grief from customers who lined up to pay tribute to its charismatic owner

Yesterday, 16:00

Alexandra Park and Palace will decide tonight whether to apply for an events licence for the park, prompting fears over noise pollution and public access

PROMOTED CONTENT

Interested in purchasing a flat and want to know the rules, rights and regulations as a leaseholder? Or maybe you are already a leaseholder and want to find out more about extending your lease?

Scores of people visited the opening of Composite Door Master’s first public showroom in Hayes at the weekend, where they were treated to a spectacular show by award winning magician, Marc Oberon.

You’ve got cash, you’ve got style and you’ve got a bursting social calendar, but no time. These Crouch End studio suites to rent could be your dream come true.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Most read Hampstead & Highgate news

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Property Newsletter Sign-up

Get the latest North London property news and features straight to your inbox with our regular newsletter

I am also happy to receive other emails...
Fields marked with a * are mandatory
Email Marketing by e-shot

Competitions

If you’re obsessed with Apple or just love a good gadget, this is a prize that will blow you away! An incredible £3,333 to spend on Apple goodies! How would you like to be the proud new owner of the Apple Watch?

As we grow older it becomes more and more important to have means to travel about safely and quickly. Our friendship groups and families grow and the need to have a car that is not only safe but also fast and big enough for all our needs is ever more important. There are many cars on the market for such needs but none deals with them as efficiently or as neatly as a VW Golf Estate. These cars are build strong, long lasting and spacious for a reason. They cater to the needs of many and are some of the most popular cars currently on the market.

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