A 16-year-old boy was pulled to safety from the River Thames by a London lifeboat crew on Sunday after a prank filmed to be shared on social media went wrong.
The lifeboat crew from Tower RNLI lifeboat station were already dealing with another call near their base beneath Waterloo Bridge when they heard radio reports from passenger vessels over that a person was in the water near Westminster.
The lifeboat immediately went to the scene and were told a boy was in the water on the south side of the river, near to County Hall. The lifeboat crew approached and found a 16-year-old boy had almost disappeared below the waterline.
"We learned afterwards that his mates had dared him to jump from Westminster Bridge and they would film it to put online," said David Norman, Tower RNLI helmsman.
"It happens – but time and time again people just do not realise what the conditions of the River Thames can be like. It can be very cold – granted, not so much at this time of year – but the currents can be vicious.
"It strikes me that peer pressure can be a very powerful thing, and when it leads to incidents like this, it nearly cost a young man his life."
"It seems he entered the water and immediately found it hard to stay afloat, swallowing water.
"When we got to him you could just about see his face and hand above the waterline. A few seconds later and he'd have been gone under. He had a lucky escape."
The boy was taken back to the lifeboat station where he was assessed and handed over to the care of a crew from the London Ambulance Service.
David said: "The RNLI's advice is simple – we implore people to respect the water. Indeed, these very words are the name of a current RNLI anti-drowning campaign which aims to reduce the number of males that drown in our waters.
"It encourages people to take care when on or near the sea or rivers. With regards to the River Thames, it is never a good idea to jump from the bridges because of the risks associated with the temperature, the depth, the currents etc."
For the latest local news and events direct to your inbox every Monday, you need our weekly email newsletter SE1 Direct.
7,000+ locals read it every week. Can you afford to miss out?
Read the latest issue before signing up