Gravesend RNLI lifeboat crew save four people from the Thames following dinghy capsize

A trio of lifeboat crew members from Gravesend RNLI have been praised for their teamwork in saving the lives of four people who were plunged into the River Thames after their dinghy capsized.

The rescue took place on Saturday evening, after the group – two men and two women – ended up in the river near Thurrock. The four had spent the day sailing in a yacht, and were making their way to shore in their 9ft dinghy when they got into difficulty and capsized.

And Gravesend RNLI Lifeboat Station Manager, Ian Dunkley, said he was sure that the four would most likely have died if it not were for the quick response of the lifeboat crew, paying tribute to their quick thinking and teamwork.

Gravesend RNLI lifeboat crew launched their Atlantic 85 lifeboat, Olive Laura Deare II, at 7.11pm, following a request from the Coastguard. They had received reports of shouts for help which were audible from the shore by Tilbury Docks, near Thurrock Yacht Club.

The lifeboat arrived on scene at 7.17pm, to find one man stuck in mud up to his knees on the shoreline, and the 9ft plastic dinghy sinking nearby. Crew member Peter Birthright took up the story: ‘It was dark when we arrived on scene and we saw police officers on shore, as well as the man stuck in the mud up to his knees. We instructed him not to move and he pointed across the water, telling us his friends were still in the river.

‘At the same time, my fellow crew member, Tina Smith, heard cries for help and we quickly located a man and a woman half in the water and clinging on to a buoy. We ascertained they had been in the water for around 20 minutes and were very cold and very frightened, so we were obviously concerned for them.’

Peter said the couple reported there was a fourth person unaccounted for, and again the crew set off in search: ‘We were passing a yacht when we say another face above the water, also clinging to a buoy. We pulled her aboard the lifeboat and treated all three with thermal blankets from our onboard medical supplies. We then returned to the original casualty and used ropes to pull him from the mud, before taking all four back to the causeway of the nearby Thurrock Yacht Club.’

All four were then transferred to an ambulance and taken to Basildon Hospital. According to the crew, all four were in shock and were hypothermic after being submerged in the icy waters of the river for such a prolonged period. Fortunately, they had taken the basic precaution of wearing lifejackets – advice which the RNLI consistently urges water users to heed.

Ian Dunkley, Station Manager, said: ‘Thank goodness this group were wearing lifejackets. The importance of this basic precaution cannot be understated. The outcome of this event could have been much worse if they hadn’t been properly kitted out. I am confident also that the crew of Gravesend RNLI saved the lives of this group, and I am very proud of the crew for their efforts. Saving lives on the River Thames and at sea is what the RNLI is here for, and this just illustrates the need for our presence.’