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Duke of Cambridge launches campaign to reduce Thames deaths

PUBLISHED: 14:47 21 May 2019

The Duke of Cambridge meets representatives of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, Metropolitan Police and London Fire Brigade pass during the launch of a new campaign to help prevent accidents and self-harm incidents on the River Thames. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

The Duke of Cambridge meets representatives of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, Metropolitan Police and London Fire Brigade pass during the launch of a new campaign to help prevent accidents and self-harm incidents on the River Thames. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

The Duke of Cambridge told how a 'simple hello' could save a life as he launched a campaign to reduce deaths on the River Thames.

The Duke of Cambridge waves from a boat on the river Thames. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA WireThe Duke of Cambridge waves from a boat on the river Thames. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Prince William met bereaved parents and emergency service staff by Tower Bridge as he said stories of accidental drownings and suicides were "heartbreaking reminders" of the importance of safety measures on the UK's busiest waterway.

Around 700 life-threatening incidents take place along the river every year, including slips, falls, and suicide attempts, with more than 30 deaths annually.

Campaigner Beckie Ramsay, whose son Dylan died aged 13 in 2011 while swimming with friends at a quarry in Lancashire, said it was "amazing somebody so prestigious is putting their name to water safety, finally".

The Duke travelled by boat along the Thames on Tuesday as he was told about the Tidal Thames Water Safety Forum by staff from the Port of London Authority (PLA) and the Metropolitan Police.

Boats pass under Tower Bridge during the launch of the campaign. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA WireBoats pass under Tower Bridge during the launch of the campaign. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

The scheme is part of the national Drowning Prevention Strategy, which aims to halve accidental drowning deaths in the UK by 2026 and reduce the risk of people taking their own lives in the water.

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Mental health advocate Jonny Benjamin, who was saved from attempting suicide off Waterloo Bridge by passer-by Neil Laybourn in 2008, appears in the campaign.

He said of his rescuer: "He listened in a way I sort of hadn't been listened to before, with real patience and no judgment.

"I can honestly say I wouldn't be here without that intervention. It saved my life."

The prince said: "Everyday people, going about their commute or on their journey to the pub, have a hugely important role to play. Don't be afraid to stop and intervene if you see someone who might be considering taking their own life.

"A simple 'Hello, how are you?' is sometimes all it takes to save a life."

He added: "I have just been meeting with families who have lost loved ones on the river.

"Their stories are heartbreaking reminders of how important all your work is to keep the river safe. Every life lost and every life-changing accident is one too many."

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