A major emergency exercise was staged on the Thames near Reading involving the RAF, Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue, and ambulance services and the Environment Agency.

It followed a real-life incident at nearby Shiplake in March when a school rowing eight and an instructor had to be rescued after getting into difficulties. The coach was swept over a weir but survived.

The mock exercise at Mapledurham weir similarly involved seven people in the river in urgent need of rescue - in this case the role was taken by trained fire-fighters.

Some of the Berkshire and Rescue Service crews who took part in the Shiplake incident were also involved in the exercise.

One of them, Station Manager Jess James, said:"We are testing our capabilities in a rescue operation close to a fast-flowing weir which presents a series of serious challenges and involves working with other agencies."

An RAF helicopter rescued one of the casualties from the river. Others were saved by the service's boat crew and land-based personnel.


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