An RNLI lifeboat crew responded after two men celebrated Andy Murray’s Wimbledon win by stripping naked and leaping off a bridge into the River Thames.
The Royal National Lifeboat Institution crew from Chiswick were scrambled by London Coastguard yesterday at 5.24pm, after the two revellers were seen jumping off Barnes Bridge into the river, known for its strong currents and cold temperatures.
On arrival, the two men confessed they had been drinking all day while watching the men’s Wimbledon final, in which the UK’s Andy Murray was hailed the champion.
Fortunately, the two men were uninjured, but the incident gave Rob Archibald, Chiswick RNLI lifeboat helmsman, cause for concern: ‘Time and time again we see people doing this – jumping off a bridge or directly into the River Thames might seem a lark or an easy way to cool off in summer, but the dangers are very real.
‘It might look cool and inviting, it might seem harmless, but that river can have deadly currents. It is a tidal river, and can move as fast as 5 to 6 knots on a Spring tide when the tide is at its peak. Add to that the risk of cold water shock and the fact there are all manner of hidden objects beneath the surface at high tide, and you have a potential recipe for disaster – sadly one we have seen end badly too many times.’
The RNLI is strongly advising people on or near rivers and the sea to ‘respect the water’, in line with the safety campaign of the same name. ‘Respect the Water’ is the lifesaving charity’s national drowning prevention campaign, and it aims to halve the number of accidental drownings by 2024.
The campaign is targeted at adult men, who account for most incidents. Last year saw an increase in the number of men losing their lives in this way. Between 2011 and 2014 men have accounted for three-quarters (75%) of deaths but, in 2015, this increased to 84%.
Rob continued: ‘Thankfully, when we arrived on scene these two chaps were near the bank of the river underneath the bridge, and they both safely got out. But it could easily have been another story – we have had people jump off bridges and never be seen again; or at least, not alive. I would urge the public, please be aware of the risks, and please – respect the water.’