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The Jubilee River story - Personal experiences

I intend to publish a series of individual submissions - that record and illustrate the devastating and permanent impact of flooding on peoples lives.

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Consequences of Mismanagement - by John Lee

On the morning of January 5th 2003 my father left his flat at an old personís residence to go to Blackbushe Market for vegetables for himself and other residents. It was cheaper to buy in bulk and Blackbushe Market was the best place. It was 6.30am and dark when he left as he wanted to get to the market early before the crowds and to get back before the roads got busy. Unbeknown to him, Runneymede was under water due to the sudden release of water in the Jubilee River which caused extensive flooding downstream of Windsor. (This was actioned by the Environment Agency whose operatives had panicked at the build up of water and just let it all go rather than a gentle release to manage levels). My father drove through Old Windsor towards Runneymede where he should have met a barrier preventing him from driving through. Unfortunately at some point during the night the barrier had been removed enabling him to drive through. Just a short distance into Runneymede, in the dark, he drove straight into the flood. He was driving a people carrier but the water still came up to his seat. At this point he knew he was in trouble and called the AA as he was a member thinking that they would be able to get him out. The AA turned up quite quickly but found that the barriers were back in place preventing access to Runneymede. As the cold set in, I believe it was   -4 degrees C and he was sitting in water, my father must have become less coherent but the AA spent between three and four hours looking around the area for him as they did not believe he was in Runneymede due to it being blocked off. Eventually one of them removed the barriers, drove through and found my father. He managed to get my fatherís vehicle out and took him home.

My father didnít want to disturb me because it was my day off and I worked very long hours as a chauffeur at the time but I saw his vehicle being towed back so I went to see him. He was very ill and we called a doctor who attended. By that evening my father had started to hallucinate. I took time off work but he didnít want to be fussed over so I gave him a bit of space but called round several times the next day. He was obviously not well and I called the doctor back in on Tuesday morning as the doctor had told me to if my father had not improved. He attended and treated him but my father was obviously deteriorating badly. On the Wednesday morning, 8th January, I helped my father into bed as he had not been sleeping since the Sunday. I checked he had taken his medication to which he replied that he had and if anything happened it wasnít his fault!  I stayed a while whilst he went to sleep and then I called home and called the doctor again who came out immediately. I didnít call from my fatherís home as he may have heard me and he hated me calling a doctor for him so I went home to call and avoid stressing him as we lived only about fifty yards apart. The doctor came out immediately and I explained my concerns with him from outside my fatherís flat and we observed him sleeping through the window as he was in a ground floor flat. We then went in and the doctor went to see my father. After a few seconds it became apparent that all was not well. I went into the room where the doctor told me that my father was not breathing. We tried to resuscitate him but it was too late. He had gone.

At the autopsy it was found that the cold water experience had played a major part in his death. He was not the fittest of people and had some health issues but having been caught in that water effectively killed him in three days. Who is to blame, I do not know. I could not find who removed or replaced the barriers that would have stopped him getting into Runneymede but then Runneymede should never have been under water. I have my opinions and no doubt lots of other people whose lives and properties were affected by the deluge let loose by the Environment Agency will have theirs as well. My father was 67. Not much of a retirement was it?

John Lee.

Written in memory of a Great Father and Grandfather, James Thomas Lee.

Please see Environment Agency lose Crown Immunity