RAF Waddington Personnel in Thames Rescue

RAF Waddington Personnel in Thames Rescue

Personnel from 54(R) Squadron RAF Waddington have been praised by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, the charity that saves lives at sea, for their heroic efforts in the rescue of a woman who had fallen in to the River Thames and was at real risk of drowning.

On a Force Development trip to London the group were heading to the RAF Memorial which is located on the Bank of the River Thames when they heard a cry for help from a female who was in distress having fallen in to the water. Members of the group attempted to throw a flotation ring to the casualty but having to fight the pull of the current; she was too fatigued to grab it.

Members of the group which included Wing Commander Andy Ross (Officer Commanding 54(R) Sqn), Sergeant Wayne Hocking and Senior Aircraftsman (SAC) John Simpson scaled a nearby gate to access a submerged pontoon in an attempt to get closer to the casualty whilst another member, Flight Lieutenant Dave Lusk alerted the emergency services. In the meantime, recognising that the woman was becoming increasingly fatigued and appearing unable to keep her head above the water SAC Shane Mitchley jumped in the river, retrieved the flotation device and swam to the casualty. Having secured the floatation ring to the casualty SAC Mitchley fought against the strong tidal under current to keep a grasp on the casualty and bring her safely back to the pontoon where Wing Commander Andy Ross managed to pull her from the water. SAC John Simpson then helped SAC Mitchley to safety.

SAC Mitchley an Aerospace Systems Operator on 54(R) Sqn said: “When I saw the woman wasunable to grasp the floatation device I thought she was in serious trouble and needed help. At that point I instinctively jumped into the water and reacted to the situation. It all happened so very quickly! The skills I have gained being in the Royal Air Force help you to react and make quick decisions, especially when there is danger to life. The rescue was a great success due to the teamwork and the innate professionalism of all involved.”

Squadron personnel treated the casualty for shock and provided reassurance and warm clothing until the emergency services arrived.

Wing Commander Ross said: “The rescue of a lady from theRiver Thames by members of 54(R) Squadron was a superb team effort. All personnel played their part to ensure that the lady was safely recovered from the water and immediate treatment for shock and cold was administered whilst concurrently coordinating the attendance of emergency services to the scene. SAC Shane Mitchley’s response by entering the water having identified the lady’s deteriorating situation was an act of outstanding courage in the face of very dangerous river conditions. His direct intervention undoubtedly saved her life.”

The tidal Thames is fast flowing, and with strong currents. Anyone who enters the water is in serious danger of drowning.

RNLI Helmsman Keith Cima said: “In this case, had the Serviceman not entered the water to help the woman then it is highly likely that she would have drowned. The fact that she survived owes much to his total disregard for his own safety in entering the water to help her. Normally we would not advise entering the Thames under any circumstance, but in this case his actions were exemplary and selfless.”

The woman was evacuated onto the Lifeboat and taken to Lifeboat Pier to start re-warming her before placing her in to the care of the London Ambulance Service. SAC Mitchley was given  good check over by the RNLI to make sure he hadn’t sustained any injuries, had not ingested water, and that he knew to seek medical advice if he started to feel ill.

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