The family of Folajimi Olubunmi-Adewole, otherwise known as Jimi, a young man who dived into the River Thames to rescue a woman who’d fallen from London Bridge, have said that the search team gave up too soon.
Jimi was on his way home from work late on Saturday night when he and another man jumped into the water to try to save her. Ultimately, the woman and the other man were rescued by the Coastguard and the Metropolitan Police’s marine unit, but Jimi was not found. However, by 6am on Sunday, police reported that they had found the body of a 20-year-old male that they believed was Jimi. His parents said their son, who had studied at Harris Academy in Peckham, had a “very good heart” and Jimi’s father, Michael Adewola, 63, told The Sun that he deserved a medal for his bravery.
“He is a very unique and angelic soul, and I am proud of him, so proud, and I want the world to know he is the deepest and most wonderful man,” Mr Adewola said. “He is a hero, and always will be. I can’t bring him back, but I want him to be remembered forever for what he did. It was just like him to want to always try and help others.”
Mr Adewola also spoke with Sky News, telling them that the search for his son was simply “not enough”. He said that a police officer had knocked on their front door at 1am on Saturday to let them know what had happened. Mrs Adewola added: “I feel bad, because my son was trying to rescue a woman. I feel so bad, and I want people to help me: I want justice for my son.”
One of Jimi’s friends, Bernard, who had been with him that night, spoke to Sky News about the call they made to police: “There’s a woman that’s just jumped aboard, we can hear the woman screaming ‘help me, help me, I’m gonna die’. Instantly Jimi looked at me and I said, ‘alright, we can look for her’. But we couldn’t see her, it was pitch black.”
He added that he could hear Jimi “shouting my name” as he lost sight of him. “Someone should have been there, someone should have jumped in and tried to rescue both of them,” he said. “At least rescue my friend. And then I didn’t hear anything, the radios were going off, (and) I asked one of the men that was sitting next to me that was a policeman, if he’s heard anything. He said two people were saved.”
Matt Leat, HM Coastguard’s Strategic Maritime Commander, said: “HM Coastguard coordinated a multi-agency search involving five Search and Rescue vessels, visual searches from bridges and an aerial search by the police helicopter. Despite conflicting reports about how many people had entered the water, we responded fully to the suggestion of a third person in the water.”
He added: “Conditions were good for a search on the night, with a slow moving tide and a high volume of units from emergency services in attendance. It was determined where in the water the person could possibly be and each area was thoroughly searched multiple times. Despite our best efforts, the sad decision was made to suspend the search at 1.20am when no sign of the person was found.”
A spokesperson for City of London Police commented: “We were called at 12.12am on Saturday 24 April to reports of a woman in the River Thames close to London Bridge. Two men, who had witnessed the woman fall from the bridge, entered the river to try and save her. The Coastguard and Metropolitan Police Marine Units were able to rescue the woman and one of the men.”
Detective Chief Supt Oliver Shaw added: “I would like to send my deepest condolences, and the condolences of everyone at City of London Police, to the family and friends of this brave, kind and selfless young man. Our officers arrived extremely quickly to the scene but two members of the public had already entered the water. One man had managed to swim to the woman and they were both seen above water by the Coastguard. Sadly, there was no sign of the other rescuer. We remained on scene to assist the marine units and police helicopter with the search in the water. This was stood down by the Coastguard over an hour later. We continued to search the shore of the river, in person and using our network of CCTV cameras, and unfortunately, at 05.46 a body was discovered. The circumstances of this incident are extremely tragic. We continue to support the family of this heroic young man who heartbreakingly lost his own life trying to save that of another.”