Ice bridge rescue raft tested by lifeguards on Hampstead ponds

Hardy Hampstead Heath lifeguards tested a new “ice bridge” life raft on the frozen mixed swimming pond.

Crowds gathered to watch as the 15ft by 10ft vessel was pushed to the centre of the pond in a three-minute simulated rescue on February 3.

Once lifeguards Steve O’Connell and Paul Jeal reached their buoy target the “ice bridge” was towed back to the shore.

It is thought the raft, which will be based at the men’s swimming pond, will save lives by offering a quicker and safer passage to the centre of the ponds when they are iced over. It will enable the rescue of more than one stricken person or dog at a time.

Ron Vester, wildlife expert and Heath regular, said it was a welcome addition to Heath safety.

He added: “Those wetsuits aren’t very warm and at one point the lifeguards begged to be brought in. It made the crowd laugh and was a very human moment.”