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 News Stories

Yesterday, 15:00
Michael Michaeledes

Tributes have been paid to a successful Hampstead painter who passed away aged 91.

Yesterday, 10:00
Jane Blackburn. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

The former manager of a trust set up to preserve the character of Hampstead Garden Suburb has been heralded for her professionalism, having stepped down after 10 years in the job.

Saturday, March 28, 2015
Jose Dent. Picture: Charlie Hopkinson/Gardens Illustrated.

A popular Hampstead horticulturalist has been remembered for her generosity and kindness.

Saturday, March 28, 2015
A mock section of the proposed anti-suicide fence at Archway Bridge is erected. Picture: Nigel Sutton

A mock-up section of controversial “prison-like” anti-suicide measures proposed for historic Archway Bridge has shown for the first time how they will look in real life.

Most read news

Property Newsletter Sign-up

The latest North London property news and features straight into your inbox.

Other Emails:
Fields marked with a * are mandatory
Email Marketing by e-shot

CCTV pictures capture the youngster’s early morning outing to satisfy her craving.

People are not happy with Hopkins’ comments, yet again.

There’s going to be more than 4,000 people standing for election – and other fun facts.

Digital Edition

Image
Read the Hampstead & Highgate Express e-edition today E-edition
Family Notices 24


Our trusted business finder