Lifeboat pilot raises awareness of dangers of drinking and swimming

Published online: May 18, 2011 News David Lindsell -
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A lifeboat pilot has told how he nearly risked his life jumping into the freezing Thames as a young man, in a bid to warn students and drinkers of the dangers of the river.

His warning comes after law student Niall Pawsey, 20, drowned swimming out from the Kingston Mill where he had been drinking the day before the royal wedding.

In the wake of his death, Andrew Butterfield 36, helmsman of the RNLI lifeboat at Teddington, is trying to raise awareness of the dangers of drunkenly swimming in the Thames, which even on a hot day can be close to freezing and cripple healthy swimmers through hypothermia.

He said: "When I was 18, I was drinking in Richmond and was tempted to jump off Kingston Bridge as it was a nice day, but a woman asked me not to. Now I get called out to similar cases regularly."

He has asked riverside pubs and restaurants to put up signs and buy rescue devices and as offered training for staff.

Meanwhile a boat company owner criticised the police and fire brigade for searching 'the wrong section' of river when it was looking for Mr Pawsey on Thursday, April 28.

Richard Turk, of Turks Launches, said officers searched upstream from Kingston Mill, instead downstream where his body was found.

But he emphasised there was no suggestion emergency services could have saved Mr Pawsey's life if they had searched downstream earlier as he believed Mr Pawsey could have drowned before.

A London Fire Brigade spokesman said: "London Fire Brigade assisted the London Coastguard, the RNLI and Met Police at this incident.

"Our fire boat and fire rescue unit staff, who assisted in the search, are highly trained, experienced and competent at dealing with water rescue incidents.

We received guidance from the RNLI who directed us to the area of the river in which to carry out our search for the missing man.

We had a large number of staff at the scene who thoroughly searched all around the area where the man went missing.

Staff were sent up and downstream to prevent other boats from getting in the way of the search operation.

Our staff did absolutely everything they could to search for the missing man and continued searching for several hours."


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