A man died on a night out in London when he struck his head while falling into the River Thames last month. James East of Swansea, Wales, fell to his death from a bridge in Kingston, Southwest London, while FaceTiming his girlfriend, Arabella Ashfield. Mr East, 25, lost his balance while perching on a walled section of the bridge on September 25 during a night out with friends to celebrate Ms Ashfield’s sister’s birthday.
He had stopped at the bridge to take a break from the festivities and fell backwards into the river, hitting his head before entering the water.
His sister and mother confirmed Mr East was on the phone with Ms Ashfield – who was trying to locate her boyfriend to share a taxi home – as he fell.
They told Wales Online she was “trying to direct him to their taxi” and has since “gone through hell” as she “watched that happen”.
Emergency services arrived at the scene and raced him to the hospital, but after three hours of trying, doctors couldn’t save his life.
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A post-mortem later confirmed that he had died from head trauma, despite earlier conclusions that he drowned.
Mr East’s sister Abigail Blade said her brother was in the water for nearly an hour.
She said: “He was in the water for 50 minutes and then they found him and took him to hospital where they worked on him for three hours to try and save him.
“When he had the post-mortem, it was found that he was dead before he entered the water due to his head injuries, but they didn’t realise that. Because he went into the Thames they thought he had drowned.
“They were working on him thinking he had drowned when it was his head. They weren’t to know that.”
The family learned of Mr East’s death in the early morning, as Kingston Police passed the news to South Wales Police, who sent officers to inform them at 4.50am.
They embarked on the three-and-a-half-hour drive from Wales, but hospital staff asked his mother and stepfather to pull over halfway through the trip.
Ms Blade said doctors told her parents they “couldn’t work on him any longer” and “there was nothing they could do”.
Instead, they are “devastated”, with the 25-year-old’s death still not having registered, Ms Blade said.
Mr East was a well-loved son, brother and friend, she said, who was the “life and soul of the party” with a “very dry sense of humour”.
Ms Blade added: “He’ll definitely be best remembered for his cheeky smile – that got him away with everything! He meant different things to everyone.
“With his friends he was the life and soul, but to us he was just perfect, he was really loving and loved his niece to bits.”