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Lock-keeper saves two during floods as redundancy talks continue
A LOCK-KEEPER who could lose his job later this year has been praised for saving two people from flood waters in recent weeks.
On Saturday Richard Hawkins, 26, from Abingdon, helped stop a boat from sinking when it came loose from its moorings and was being pulled towards the weir.
Mr Hawkins, who has been a lock-keeper for seven years and lives at the lock house, was woken by the boat owner at 7.30am asking for help.
He pulled the boat to the river bank using a rope, but when the owner tried to get on board he slipped and fell into the river.
Mr Hawkins threw him a rope and helped him out of the water.
While the owner dried off and warmed up, Mr Hawkins piloted the boat to the opposite bank where, with the assistance of his girlfriend, Lizzie Spokes, 25, he moored it safely.
He said: “I just reacted in a way anyone would when someone is in trouble, trying to stay calm and using methodical thinking to work out how best to help.
“Looking back I’m just relieved I was on hand and had the experience to do something useful.”
On February 9, Mr Hawkins grabbed a small boy who had slipped over on the flooded river bank and was being dragged by the fast-flowing flood water towards the main river channel.
The Environment Agency commended Mr Hawkins for his quick-thinking.
General workers’ union the GMB warned last night that Mr Hawkins’ job as resident at Abingdon Lock would disappear if the EA was allowed to implement plans to abolish resident keepers.
All residential lock keepers on the Thames are currently subject to consultation on redundancy as part of 10 per cent EA cuts from April 1.
The agency is looking at selling lock houses to raise money.But yesterday waterways duty officer for the EA James Overy said: “Mr Hawkins isn’t being made redundant in April and I commend his actions in helping this boat owner.
“We are prioritising incident response above all other work.
“With this in mind, we are reviewing the timetable for the Environment Agency’s change programme and will not be entering a formal consultation with staff until the flooding has subsided.
“Our staff are trained in water safety and how to get people out of lock chambers but they are not trained to deal with other emergencies and we don’t expect them to.”