The RNLI has launched a major drowning awareness campaign, Respect the Water, warning people to stay safe.

It comes as fatality figures reveal 15 people accidentally lost their lives in the River Thames last year. The number of near-misses was even higher, with 16 lives being saved and 344 people being rescued by the RNLI’s London lifeboat crews.  The charity has four lifeboat stations on the tidal Thames at Gravesend, Tower, Chiswick and Teddington.

It’s not only water-based activities which put people in danger. Over the four-year period, slips and falls while walking and running along the edge of the river accounted for 21% of the deaths.

For those entering the water, intentionally or otherwise, cold water shock is a significant danger. Despite warm summer air temperatures, the temperature of the Thames is cold enough year-round to trigger cold water shock – the average temperature of the Thames is just 12 degrees , but cold water shock can set in at any temperature below 15 degrees. It causes uncontrollable gasping, which draws water into the lungs and can lead to drowning.

The RNLI is warning people to be aware of the effects of cold water shock and to acclimatise gradually if getting in to the water.

Nine locations around the UK have been chosen for the Respect the Water campaign activity, with Kingston-upon-Thames among them. Targeted safety advice specific to the Kingston and surrounding Thames area will be on display.

It will include outdoor posters and displays, radio and online, as well as pint glasses and bar runners printed with safety advice in selected riverside pubs. The RNLI will also have a cubic metre of water – weighing one tonne – on display, to help people realise how heavy a relatively small volume of water is.


Andrea Corrie’s 19-year-old son James drowned in the Thames after becoming separated from friends after a night out in Kingston. As part of the RNLI campaign, Andrea is working with the RNLI to share James’ story, as a warning to others about the potential dangers of the river. His story will be printed on bespoke pint glasses, which will be distributed in selected bars along the riverside.

Andrea said: "James went missing after his friends split into groups to get taxis home on a warm summer’s night in July 2005.  He was not especially familiar with the area and it appears that he simply lost his balance and fell into the water.

" Despite his being a strong and confident swimmer, it is thought that the combined effects of alcohol and cold water shock quickly led to loss of life. He was recovered three days later. 

"Nine years on, James is greatly missed by all who knew him.  As his mother, I can only emphasise the importance of respecting the water. The figures speak for themselves and it is evident that a casual approach to the power of water doesn’t work. Sadly it is too late for James but I hope that by sharing his story, people will stop and think before getting themselves into difficulties.

"I support the RNLI in their aim to be proactive rather than reactive; their campaign will undoubtedly prevent further needless loss of life."

Story dated July 24th 2014



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