18 May 2015
Personal Injury Solicitor discusses RNLI Boat Race Rescue
London was blessed with sunny skies on the last weekend in April as thousands of people enjoyed watching the Boat Race along the River Thames. It was a double victory for Oxford who won both the men’s and the women’s race.
A somewhat less victorious outcome met several spectators who had to be rescued by lifeboats from the Hammersmith, Chiswick and Barnes foreshore of the Thames. The river is tidal throughout Central London and the Boat Race spectators became stranded when they were caught out by the rising tide.
RNLI lifeboats rescued more than 50 people whilst several other spectators were brought to safety by the Royal Marines and the Metropolitan Police Marine Unit.
A spokesperson for the RNLI said that it was the biggest rescue of Boat Race supporters they had ever undertaken.
So, if it was the biggest ever rescue, this raises a question as to whether adequate provisions are made to warn spectators as to the risks posed by standing on the edge of the tidal River Thames. Thankfully there were no casualties but what if someone slipped and injured themselves when the place where they were standing became wet due to the incoming tide? Or what if someone panicked and started swimming away from the banks and got into trouble?
Sightseeing boat owners, kayak tour operators and anybody else providing similar services along rivers should insure themselves against any potential public liability claims, but what about the ‘owners’ of a river itself?
The tidal part of the Thames is controlled by the Port of London Authority who has a common law duty, in conjunction with the organisers of the Boat Race, to ensure that people watching the race on the banks of the Thames are safe. This includes having due regard to tidal issues and whether spectators are likely to be affected by the tide.
As the River Thames throughout Central London is tidal it would be reasonable to expect that the Port of London Authority should place warning signs along the riverbank, clearly visible by all visitors and alerting them to any risks involved in using the river including warnings about the tide.
Tristan Hallam is a Senior Personal Injury Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers UK, specialising in Occupiers and Public Liability claims.
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