Fatality Averted By Radcot Lock Keeper On River Thames On Thursday 29th May As Environment Agency Looks To Make Resident Keeper Posts Redundant
The lock had been unmanned on the previous two days and this would almost certainly have resulted in a fatality if the lock had been unmanned that day says GMB
On Thursday 29th May 2014, the duty lock keeper at Radcot Lock on River Thames near Faringdon in Oxfordshire helped to save the life of a teenage boy who got into difficulty while canoeing with his father near the lock.
The Environment Agency is currently trying to force through plans to make resident lock keeper posts all along the River Thames redundant.
At Radcot, there is a canoe pass that bypasses the lock and weir. On Thursday 29th the two canoeists went along this feature. After paddling through this canoe pass, the boy ventured towards the main weir. The boy then got caught in the "stopper" below the weir and got into extreme difficulty.
Frank Minal, GMB Regional Officer, said “The father called on the boy not to get any closer to the weir. He then screamed at him to not go any further. The boy then got caught in the "stopper" below the weir and got into extreme difficulty. The canoe was in an upright position with the boy stuck in the canoe underwater.
The duty lock keeper heard the father screaming for help and rushed to the scene, with a bystander who happened to be there at the time. A rescue took place using a life-ring from the weir structure and between them they lifted the boy out of the water. He was blue in colour and unconscious but was still breathing.
The bystander, who happened to be a doctor, was able to assess the boy and assist with first aid until the ambulance arrived. The boy’s father, who was a surgeon, had got into the water to get his son out of the canoe and dragged him to the bank. He was exhausted by his efforts and would not have been able to get the boy out of the water without help.
The ambulance took a while to find the location, so the boy was treated for about 40 minutes at the scene before they arrived. He was worked on by the ambulance team for a further 20 minutes before being dispatched to hospital.
The lock had been unmanned on the previous two days and this would almost certainly have resulted in a fatality if the lock had been unmanned that day.
GMB members spoke to two eyewitnesses to the incident over the weekend. They were taking part in a sponsored paddle along the river and it was one of their support crew that was the doctor at the scene. He had been talking to the lock keeper when the incident took place.
The Environment Agency is currently trying to force through plans to make resident lock keeper posts all along the River Thames redundant. Claims by senior managers that removing these key front line staff will not affect the ability to respond to incidents on the river are total nonsense. This is not the only incident in recent months. See notes to editors for details of other incidents.
The plans must be dropped for reasons of safety and for the flood defences.”
Contact Justin Bowden 07710 631351 or Frank Minal 07713 079930
Notes to editors
GMB press release of 25th March
RESIDENT THAMES LOCK KEEPER FACING AXE BY ENVIRONMENT AGENCY AVERTS TRAGEDY AT OXFORDSHIRE WEIR ON MONDAY 24TH MARCH
This is the fourth time in two months that the quick response of a resident lock keeper has been critical to save lives says GMB
At approximately 17.30 on Monday 24th March a rowing eight from Shiplake College and three coaching boats got into difficulty above Shiplake weir near Henley upon Thames in Oxfordshire. The strong stream pulled the rowing boat and two of the launches onto the weir, whilst third boat was dragged through the open gates, catapulting the coach into the river below.
A fourth boat raced the few hundred yards to the lock keepers cottage to raise the alarm. Resident keeper Andy Feak was able to respond in minutes, racing to the weir to close the gates and reduce the force of the water pounding on the rowers and their coaches. The speed of his response without doubt prevented the boys being dragged through the weir.
The boys and coaches were lifted from the weir by the emergency services, which were quick to praise Andy for actions and highlight the importance of the speed of his response.
Frank Minal of the GMB who represents lock keepers on the Thames said “The Environment Agency is currently trying to force through plans to make resident lock keeper posts redundant. Senior managers have claimed removing these key front line staff will not affect its ability to respond to incidents on the river. This is despite admitting that the response time to incidents like this will increase from minutes to a goal of two hours.
This is the fourth time in two months that the quick response of a resident lock keeper has been critical. There is overwhelming evidence that having a lock keeper on site saves lives and has done so for years.
If this incident had happened at Chertsey or Sunbury or one of the other locks where the Agency has irresponsibly decided not to have a resident, we would have been faced with a catastrophe.
Last year Andy Feak was recognised with an Environment Agency award for racing from his lock cottage during the night to save a boat and its crew, who were in danger of being pulled through the weir.”