A COUPLE of weeks ago, I wrote in this column about the rowing four which wrapped itself around one of the stanchions below Walton Bridge and was quickly turned into matchwood by the fast-flowing stream.
I commented at the time that the rowers who escaped from the water by climbing up the bridge support were extremely fortunate to have to drowned in the freezing waters of the Thames and questioned the sense of allowing a crew to take to the water (a) when the river was clearly in flood, flowing extremely fast and very cold, (b) without a safety boat to aid them if they got into trouble and (c) when the Environment Agency had put its red boards out on all the locks in our part of the Thames telling people that the river was in a dangerous state and that people should not attempt to navigate on it until the flood had subsided.
This week, I’m told by a regular correspondent that a second accident has occurred – this time at Molesey Weir – where a rowing eight ended up jammed against the ironwork and, again, the crew had to hastily abandon ship or risk being swept over the weir.
The same gentleman tells me that just hours later he saw two fours – apparently full of schoolboys from a well-known local private school – heading off up the river past Port Hampton.
These lads did, at least, have a safety boat with them but that’s ignoring the fundamental point – after all the snow and heavy rain we’ve experienced, the river was just too dangerous for navigation and sooner or later, someone is going to pay the ultimate price for ignoring that danger.
Yes, I know, it’s extremely frustrating if you’re a crew which simply wants to get out and practice but spare a thought for the emergency services who may have to risk their lives fishing you out of the Thames if the worst happens.