Man pulled from the Thames was “five seconds away from death”

A drowning man was saved in a dramatic rescue after lifeboat crew pulled him from the Thames – just five seconds away from death.

Lifeboat crews rushed to his rescue after he was spotted struggling by the crew of a Thames Clipper boat.

The Tower RNLI crew launched immediately and saved the life of the 36-year-old man, who had been pulled downstream by the fast-moving tide towards Blackfriars bridge.

After pulling him from the river to safety just after 5am on Thursday, lifeboat crews classed the rescue as a “life saved”, saying he was just ‘five seconds away from drowning’.

The man was wearing dark clothes and had dark hair, and this, coupled with the limited light at that early hour, made him hard to spot.

He was treated on board the lifeboat for cold and water inhalation and was taken back to the lifeboat station to be handed into the care of London Ambulance Service and the Metropolitan Police’s Marine Police Unit.

Craig Burn, helm of Tower RNLI lifeboat crew, said: “We reached the scene and located him in the water with just the top of his head visible.

“But as we approached his head went under and all we could see was an arm and hand as he was struggling to stay afloat.

“We were reaching out for him and his head came up again, and my crew grabbed his flailing arm and pulled him aboard the lifeboat.

“Based on how we found him, he was probably five seconds away from drowning.

“Given his temperature and the water he had ingested, if we hadn’t got him there and then, he’d have gone under.

“This just show how important, how absolutely vital the advice of our Respect the Water campaign is.

“Water can be very dangerous and needs to be treated with respect.”

The dramatic rescue coincides with today’s launch of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s ‘Respect the Water’ campaign, a national drowning prevention initiative aimed at preventing people getting into distress on or near water.

Fatality figures released today show 42 people have accidentally lost their lives along the tidal reaches of the River Thames over the past five years, and 40 per cent of these didn’t even intend to enter the water.

The campaign is targeted at adult men, who account for a staggering 79 per cent of the fatalities over the past five years in the tidal reaches of the River Thames – 57 per cent last year.

This is the fourth year the RNLI has run its ‘Respect the Water’ campaign.

One of the key messages the charity is promoting to the public is how to deal with the potentially fatal effects of cold water shock.

If someone finds themselves unexpectedly in the water, the RNLI recommends they fight their instincts and try to float until the effects of cold water shock pass and they can catch their breath, before trying to swim to safety or calling for help.

Guy Addington, RNLI Community Safety Partner for London, said: “Through our ‘Respect the Water’ campaign we want to start a national conversation about water safety.

“We’re asking the public to remember this lifesaving advice, share with others and practice the survival skill of floating – it could be the difference between life and death.

“For those who are planning to go into the water, the best way to stay safe is to choose a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags, which is the area most closely monitored by the lifeguards.

“And if you see someone else in danger in the water, fight your instinct to go in and try to rescue them yourself – instead call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.”

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