Man Drowns After Falling from Rowing Boat

Chiswick Lifeboat crew retrieve body near Isleworth pub

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The Royal National Lifeboat Institution

A man has drowned in the River Thames after falling out of a rowing boat despite the intensive attempts of locally stationed RNLI crews to rescue him.

On Thursday morning, 14th September, two RNLI lifeboats, the Harbour Master’s launch and a police helicopter were involved in an intensive search for a man missing in the river. The first call came from London coastguard at 08.41 with a report of a sculler in the water near Isleworth Ait.

As Chiswick and Teddington lifeboats sped to the scene more details emerged: three people had been tipped into the water from a capsized rowing boat, two wearing lifejackets had managed to swim ashore but the third was missing.

The PLA launch ‘CHELSEA’ was nearby and searched around Isleworth Ait, Chiswick lifeboat searched downstream with the ebbing tide and Teddington Lifeboat searched close in around the moored craft by the boatyard on the Ait. Police helicopter India 99 searched from above using its infra-red equipment; despite all these efforts no trace was found of the missing man.

Chiswick RNLI lifeboat was relaunched to resume the search at low water. The water was too low for the boat to go behind the island so duty helmsman Mark Turrell and duty mechanic Steve Alexander searched on foot looking behind all the moorings.

The Police marine support unit was also searching along the bed of the river which by then was less than 2 feet deep; a police diver located the body of a man near the Town Wharf Pub, only 25 metres from where the boat capsized. The two RNLI crew and two of the marine police removed the body from the river into the hands of the shore side police for investigation. Unlike his two companions the drowned man was not wearing a lifejacket. It appeared that he became trapped under one of the boatyard’s dry docks and rolled into the bed of the river later as the tide ebbed.

Steve Alexander commented “There is no doubt that one of the search team would have located the man soon after the capsize, if he had been on the surface, we train for this all the time. But without a lifejacket and with heavy clothing it seems likely that he sunk immediately and became trapped.”

The RNLI has 233 lifeboat stations including four on the Thames. Chiswick RNLI lifeboat became operational on the 2nd January 2002. Since then it has responded to 973 emergency calls. The four Thames lifeboats together have responded to over 3000 calls. The RNLI is entirely supported by voluntary contributions.

November 7, 2006