On Sunday, 29 October, a man was rescued from the river after his wheelchair fell from the Thames Side path. At 10:40am, Philip was out with his wife and carer when his wheelchair caught on the path and tumbled into the Thames. The 72 year old was completely immersed before being helped out by passing pedestrians and taken to the Royal Berkshire Hospital.
Clint and Angela Botha, directors of Physiolistic, were both walking along the path when the incident occurred. Angela, also a physiotherapist at the Marlow Road practice, recounted what she saw. “We were about to cross the road, when I saw a wheelchair being pushed along the towpath next to the jetty fall sideways. Due to the camber and break in the concrete path, the front wheel caught and tipped the wheelchair sideways, resulting in Philip falling into the river between the pathway and the jetty. His carer desperately tried to stop him falling but was also pulled in by the wheelchair, hitting her head heavily on the jetty in the process and also ending up in the river.”
Angela continued, “Philip, who is wheelchair bound with Parkinson’s, was submerged under the water with the wheelchair on top of him. His wife jumped in to try and help. At the same time, I jumped in, realising Philip’s predicament as he remained submerged under the water. Clint followed me into the water and between us we managed to get Phillip’s head above the water and the wheelchair off him.”
Due to the quick response of those present, Philip was thankfully only submersed for a few seconds, and was then lifted onto the nearby jetty with the help of more bystanders. Ben Wiltshire, a Hobbs of Henley skipper, was also quick to lend a helping hand. “Me and my mate were just walking along when we heard someone calling for help,” he recalled. “We ran over and helped about 3 people out of the river that had got him out, then I pulled his wheelchair out. They then just waited for the ambulance.”
As the group awaited for the paramedics, they tried to keep Philip stable and warm, the local community uniting to provide blankets, beanies and tea. The paramedics were unable to safely move Philip from the jetty, eventually calling the fire brigade to avoid further danger. Henley was brought to a standstill as the Thames Side road became obstructed by the ambulances and fire engine. Thankfully, the combined emergency services successfully moved Philip from the jetty without further harm, at which point he was taken to the Royal Berkshire Hospital with his wife and carer.
Angela was touched by support Philip was shown by the community, and incredibly appreciative of their efforts. Though she didn’t know full names, she wished to express her gratitude. “Thanks to Jane, who helped on the jetty by supporting Philip’s legs and keeping him warm. Thanks to the gentleman who held up the large umbrella to form a wind break, and to Katie (who is new to Henley) for calling 999 and helping everyone on scene. Thanks also to the off duty A&E doctor who gave up her time to help. It was a great response by the local community to help this gentleman. Unfortunately we have been unable to find out if Philip was okay, and we do not know if they live locally. It may be that the council need to look at that bit of towpath, as the cracks in the concrete meant that the front wheel caught, and with the camber of the path made the wheelchair tip sideways — a real hazard.”
Henley’s everyday heroes are keen for an update Philip’s wellbeing. If you have any knowledge of his condition, please do get in touch. The Herald would like to wish him a speedy recovery!