A rowing instructor was swept over a weir on the River Thames after a rowing eight got into difficulties.

And a lock-keeper has been praised for his swift action in averting a more serious incident as a rowing eight from Shiplake College near Henley was in danger of being swept over the weir.

The instructor was in a motor boat that capsized. He was swept through the weir but survived.

Another boat raised the alarm at nearby Shiplake lock and lock-keeper Andy Feak adjusted weir gates to slow the flow of the river which was on yellow warning boards at the time.

Emergency services were called to the scene which is near the spot where a 43-year-old kayaker drowned last June.

Shiplake College Headmaster, Gregg Davies said: “In assisting the boys, one safety launch from the College became entangled with the safety ropes and subsequently overturned.

"As a result a member of staff spent a short period of time in the water. He was treated at the scene by paramedics and [attended hospital]. He was later discharged without requiring further treatment."

Mr Davies said a risk assessment had earlier been carried out. He said: "Whilst thankful and relieved that all those involved are safe, I regard this as a very serious incident and have instigated a full investigation."

'Swift response'

The GMB union which represents staff on the river said the incident illustrated the need to retain resident lock-keepers on the river - currently under threat.

The union said: [The] resident keeper 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.

Frank Minal of the GMB said “ 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."

The Environment Agency said: " [We] are aware of an incident at Shiplake Lock. A river user encountered some difficulty near the weir, and was rescued by the emergency services. We will review the incident and support our partners as required."

Story dated March 27th 2014


Tel:01628 528203
Mobile 0771 2985189
email direct