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Thames Lock Keeper Averts Another Tragedy

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

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.”

End

Contact Justin Bowden 07710 631351 or Frank Minal 07713 079930 GMB Press Office 07921 289 880 or 07974 251 823

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