Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Swimmer’s fury after being hit by cruiser

Swimmer’s fury after being hit by cruiser

A SWIMMER had a lucky escape after being hit by a boat in the River Thames at Shiplake.

Keith Greenfield was out training on Saturday for a 10km charity swim he will undertake with his daughter Joanna in September in the River Dart.

Mr Greenfield, 59, who lives in Station Road, Shiplake, had entered the water at Shiplake green at the bottom of Station Road at about 11.30am.

He had been in the water for 30 minutes when he was struck on the head by a 25ft open launch near Henley Sailing Club, despite having a bright orange buoy attached to him.

Mr Greenfield said: “I wear a wetsuit and, most importantly, I’m very safety conscious. I was towing a bright orange safety buoy. It’s about 2ft long and about 1ft in diameter.

“I’d not long set off and I was swimming towards Val Wyatt and was opposite Henley Sailing Club.

“The river was quiet. I occasionally stop and have a look around and there were only a couple of boats on that stretch. I think that’s possibly why that person wasn’t paying attention because it was a quiet day.

“There was a glancing blow on the left-hand side of my head.

“I rolled onto my back and I was looking at the underside of a boat going over the top of me which was pretty scary.

“My immediate thought was ‘swim away from the propeller’ because I realised straight away what had happened. Fortunately, I’m pretty familiar with boats and a confident swimmer. This all happened in a second.

“If it had hit me square on the back of the head, if the keel had hit me, it’s unthinkable what might have happened.

“The more I thought about it afterwards the more I’m thinking I was very lucky not to be right under the keel and chewed up by the propeller.

“It was very nearly a serious accident and I consider myself lucky to have avoided serious injury or worse."

After surfacing Mr Greenfield, the chief executive of a ferry company, remonstrated with those on board — two men and a woman — who he said were apologetic and “distraught”.

Mr Greenfield explained: “I was just absolutely outraged that somebody wouldn’t have seen a florescent orange buoy. People take the mickey out of me for being super cautious about things and towing this buoy along and I was very angry somebody had been so careless not seeing where they were going. They were not going fast.

“They were very, very upset and were totally apologetic and admitted they hadn’t been watching where they were going. The lesson is learned for them I think.”

They took him on board and made sure he was uninjured before escorting him while he swam back to Shiplake.

Mr Greenfield said: “What I’m keen to do is make other boat owners aware of their responsibilities and watching out, not just for swimmers, but for canoeists and other users. It could have been a very unpleasant ending to the story.”

He said he swam regularly in the pool and completed the Henley Classic in 2015 but was now questioning whether if was safe for him to swim in the river alone and may have to train elsewhere.

He added: “In the past, on the few other occasions I’ve swam in the river, I’ve either been with my daughter or had someone in a rowing boat nearby.

“I also wonder whether it will take a serious accident before boaters are required to undergo training and pass a driving test.”

The pair with be using their 10km challenge to raise money for charity Level Water, which provides free swimming lessons for disabled and disadvantaged children.

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