RNLI concern over large number of Boat Race spectators getting trapped on the Thames foreshore

RNLI vessel rescuing stranded Boat Race spectators trapped by the rising tide at Chiswick. Image: RNLI

RNLI vessel rescuing stranded Boat Race spectators trapped by the rising tide at Chiswick. Image: RNLI

Over sixty men, women and children have been rescued from the bank of the River Thames after choosing the foreshore rather than the road to watch the Varsity Boat Races.

They became trapped by the rising tide.

The RNLI has also reported that they had to rescue a small boy from another location who had become distressed after finding himself stranded on the muddy foreshore.

They’re very concerned that hundreds of Varsity Race spectators chose unsafe river bank positions this year.

Video has been released by the RNLI, who along with Met Police River boats and the Royal Marines managed to ferry all those stranded to safety.

The incident has also been filmed and uploaded to YouTube by a spectator who had chosen a safer position from which to watch the races.

The RNLI say those chosing the foreshore appeared to be unaware that they would be exposed to the substantial wash from the flotilla following the races and from the rising tide.

This year many were cut off and found themselves with no or limited options to reach higher ground.

Three lifeboats from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s station at Chiswick were on duty but RNLI say ‘the numbers in jeopardy came as a surprise.’

RNLI Helmsman Luke Dillon was checking the wash line of the flotilla following the women’s race.

About 100 metres up stream of the White Hart pub in Barnes a small boy wearing a red jumper was seen standing on a slippery rocky part of the embankment; the crew saw that the child was scared and crying and was unable to help himself to safety.

The large wash from the flotilla had caused him to lose his balance and soaked his trousers.

Luke Dillon brought the lifeboat close to the embankment and placed a crew member ashore who carried the child a short distance and up a flight of steps into the care of his mother.

Following the women’s race seven people were evacuated from Chiswick Eyot where they were cut off by the rising tide.

After the men’s race it soon became apparent that a great number of people were in trouble.

Three of the charity’s lifeboats evacuated spectators on the foreshore at Hammersmith Mall, Chiswick Mall and in Barnes.

In the third Lifeboat RNLI Helmsman Peter Knight, dealt with a large group who were trying to reach safety via a small ladder.

It was clear that they would not all be able to evacuate before the tide rose substantially, already many already paddling and trying to stay upright on a very slippery surface.

Marine commandos were already assisting in a small RIB, and the RNLI crew evacuated 40 people in two batches.

Chiswick RNLI Station Manager Wayne Bellamy said:

This incident showed once more that the tidal Thames can catch people unawares. Whilst RNLI Lifeboats have rescued a number of spectators of earlier Boat Races, the numbers in trouble on Saturday were significantly greater than previous years.

Thankfully the diligence of our three RNLI Lifeboat crews and the contribution of the Royal Marines and Police boats ensured that nobody came to serious harm.


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