Firefighter among the first rescuers at river tour boat fire
A FORMER Frome firefighter helped in the dramatic rescue of 30 people who were on the duck tour boat that caught fire in London.
Neil Withers, 50, was a retained firefighter in Frome for three years before moving to the capital in 1988 to join the London Fire Brigade.
The fire took place on the Thames outside the Houses of Parliament on Sunday, September 29, and Mr Withers, who is a group manager with the authority, was one of the first at the scene.
Firefighters from the brigade's fire boat and those on land extinguished the blaze and about 30 people who had jumped into the water were rescued.
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Mr Withers, who was born in Leigh on Mendip, said: "It was quite an unusual incident for us, it doesn't happen very often. I think the last time there was a very serious boat incident was the Marchioness."
Mr Withers, who lives in Muswell Hill, said a number of people were in the river.
He said: "People were clearly cold, wet and in shock but they were pulled from the water really quickly and that's testament to the work of our firefighters, other emergency rescue teams and others who rushed to the scene to help.
"People were rescued by firefighters, the RNLI, police officers and other non-emergency boats were also nearby and assisted in the rescue operation.
"The casualties, who were tourists, were looked after by the London Ambulance Service and firefighters, who kept them warm by making them cups of tea.
"The damaged boat was pulled away from the scene by our fire boat and an investigation into what happened will now take place."
Asked how he felt a few days after the incident, he said: "There were a lot of things on that day in favour of those people, had the tide been at a different point and the Thames river crews not been quite so close, it may not have been quite the same outcome."