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London lifeboat crew stand guard as man risks life climbing Tower Bridge

Lifeboats News Release

A London lifeboat crew was involved in a two-hour standoff between police and a man who had climbed part of Tower Bridge, in the early hours of this morning (22 June).

The crew from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s Tower lifeboat station were requested to launch just after 2am and stand guard beneath the famous landmark, after a man was spotted walking up and down its curved suspension supports.

Fearing he might fall or deliberately jump into the River Thames below, the lifeboat crew were on scene until 4am, when they were stood down by London Coastguard and returned to Tower RNLI Lifeboat Station near to Waterloo Bridge.

A spokesman for the lifesaving charity said: ‘We received a request from London Coastguard to launch the lifeboat at 2.04am this morning, amid reports that a man was walking along the handrail of Tower Bridge. We launched at 2.05am and were on scene within minutes.

‘When we arrived what we actually saw was a man walking up and down the curved suspension supports of Tower Bridge.’

The crew said the man walked up and down several times and, over the course of the next hour and 55 minutes, he alternated between standing, walking and sitting. He even paused on several occasions to smoke a cigarette.

Two Marine Police boats were in attendance while further police arrived by road as the incident unfolded.

‘Obviously we were very concerned this man might fall or even jump into the River Thames, which can be very dangerous,’ said the lifeboat spokesman. ‘The river water is cold, it can have very strong currents because it is tidal, and there can be unseen dangers beneath the water at high tide. We were asked to stand guard below so we could react and hopefully pull him to safety should he end up in the water.’

However, the lifeboat crew were stood down at 4am and later received word that the man had descended from the bridge, to be met by police and an ambulance crew.

Adam Robson, RNLI Community Incident Reduction Manager for the RNLI, said: ‘We have no idea why this gentleman decided to climb up onto Tower Bridge like he did, but it was certainly very risky.

‘It’s exactly the kind of activity we encourage people not to do as part of our national Respect the Water campaign, an RNLI drowning prevention drive currently being run. The campaign is targeted particularly at men aged 16 to 39 years, because more than two thirds of the 190 people that die around the British and Irish coasts each year are men*. This man was believed to be in his early 30s, so in the wake of that we would reiterate our message to people to be careful, and respect the water.’

To find out more about the Respect the water campaign visit RNLI.org/RespectTheWater 


Notes to Editors
• Provisional coastal fatality data taken from the National Water Safety Forum’s Water Incident Database (WAID) 2011–2015. The figures quoted are for water-related fatalities from accidents and natural causes in UK tidal waters.

RNLI media contacts
• Tim Ash, RNLI Public Relations Manager (London/East/South East) on 0207 6207426, 07785 296252  tim_ash@rnli.org.uk
• For enquiries outside normal business hours, contact the RNLI duty press officer on 01202 336789

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

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