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Heroes of the river honoured

PUBLISHED: 17:39 08 April 2009 | UPDATED: 10:36 23 August 2010

LIFE-SAVERS:  Peter Birthright and Ian Smith, two of the three who saved a fisherman stuck in deep mud in the Thames.

LIFE-SAVERS: Peter Birthright and Ian Smith, two of the three who saved a fisherman stuck in deep mud in the Thames.

LIFEBOAT crew members have been officially commended for saving the life of a man who refused help as he nearly drowned in the River Thames. Full time Helmsmen Ian Smith and Peter Birthright and volunteer crew member Steven Cardew were all involved in th

LIFEBOAT crew members have been officially commended for saving the life of a man who refused help as he nearly drowned in the River Thames.

Full time Helmsmen Ian Smith and Peter Birthright and volunteer crew member Steven Cardew were all involved in the rescue bid last November.

On Tuesday Michael Vlasto, head of the Royal National Lifeboats Institution (RNLI) praised the trio for saving the fisherman who was stuck in deep mud on the banks of the River Thames.

In a letter written to the station, which is framed on the office wall, he said: "This service amply demonstrates the dangers our crew face from belligerent and uncooperative casualties.

"I commend Ian, Steven and Peter for their courage and calm professionalism in such trying and difficult circumstances."

The Gravesend RNLI lifeboat station members were called to Chainrock Jetty, Holehaven, Essex, following reports that a man was stranded in the mud and was at risk of drowning.

Helmsman Ian Smith, 39, of Chalk, has been at the RNLI for four-and-a-half years, he said: "We saw some fishing gear up on the jetty and a shape moving in the mud. I went out of the boat with a stretcher while Peter expertly steered the boat as close to the casualty as he could. The man was belligerent and was resisting our attempts. I had to get the others to help me lift him on board.

"He was unaware of the danger he was in with the tide coming in. To be honest I think he would've died if we hadn't got him out."

Gravesend RNLI lifeboat station is manned by 10 full time crew and 40 volunteers who give up their spare time to work two 12 hour shifts a month. They are on call 24 hours a day 365 days a year.

Helmsman Peter Birthright, 51, of Cliffe Woods, has been at the RNLI for seven years, he said: "It was great to receive the letter of commendation. It was one of the more difficult jobs we have had.

"We have got a really good crew here. You don't really think when you go out there your training just comes together."

Station manager at Gravesend RNLI Lifeboat Station Ian Dunkley also commended the crew. He said: "Operating as a crew member in such circumstances can be very frustrating but I am immensely proud that my crew worked against the odds to bring about such a positive outcome.

"I am very proud of this station and all of its volunteers."

jason.goodyer@archant.co.uk

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