The crew of London’s Chiswick RNLI lifeboat achieved a landmark launch on Tuesday 25 October 2016 when they conducted their 3,000th callout since lifeboats were established in the capital 14 years ago.
Chiswick RNLI – year on year the charity’s second busiest RNLI lifeboat station overall – went to the rescue of a capsized rowing quad.
At 9.30am the crew were cleaning the lifeboat at its mooring on Chiswick Pier, when they saw four rowers in difficulty a little way downstream. It appeared that a quad from St Paul’s girls’ school was swept by the strong current onto a large buoy after taking action to avoid a vessel coming upstream, and the four rowers were tipped into the river.
The coach’s launch was alongside but was too small to get the girls out of the water. RNLI helmsman Andy Mayo brought the lifeboat alongside and crew members Gavin Simmons and Holly Walters quickly brought the rowers on board the lifeboat. The girls were in good spirits but cold; the crew wrapped them in blankets and the lifeboat returned them to their base at Tideway scullers near Chiswick Bridge were they were able to warm up.
Chiswick RNLI, along with other lifeboat stations on the River Thames at Tower, Teddington and Gravesend, was established in January 2002. The RNLI was approached to provide a dedicated search and rescue service on the Thames in the wake of the enquiry into the Marchioness disaster.
Andy Mayo, Chiswick RNLI lifeboat helmsman on the 3,000th callout, joined the RNLI as a volunteer on Dover lifeboat in 1994 and has been on the crew at Chiswick since the station opened. He said: ‘When the RNLI search and rescue service on the Thames started, no one could have predicted how busy it would be. Today’s incident shows how we were able to deal swiftly with a situation that could have had a very different outcome. It just shows that the RNLI really is needed on the River Thames and is seen by other authorities as an invaluable service.’
The RNLI remains a charity that relies almost entirely on voluntary contributions to continue its lifesaving work. Chiswick RNLI has an active fundraising group and is always keen to have new helpers from the local community. There is a wide range of roles; as well as helping with events there are currently opportunities for those with skills in social media, videos and graphics.