Underwater search for lecturer called off

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The Independent Online

An underwater search for a former university lecturer feared dead after a boat carrying six passengers capsized was called off today.

Three women and one man, described as being in their 50s and 60s, were rescued and taken to hospital with minor injuries after the incident in the River Thames, near Shepperton, Surrey, on Sunday evening.

The body of Keith Lowde, 66, was found in the river by police divers on Monday, close to where the boat overturned.

The body of his friend, former Cambridge University lecturer Rex Walford, has yet to be found.

A spokesman for Surrey Police said a thorough and extensive search by its specialist dive teams over the past two days had been unable to locate the missing man.

The decision to stand the underwater search down was based on a number of factors including visibility and currents in the water, along with the substantial area of water involved in the search operation, he said.

Instead crews from Surrey Fire and Rescue Service will continue to search the water's surface.

Yesterday, Mr Lowde's family released a statement in which they spoke of their devastation at his loss.

It said: "He was a wonderful husband, and a truly amazing father. This tragic accident has left a massive hole in all our lives.

"The response from all our friends, Keith's work colleagues, and his students has been immense and we thank them all for their support and help.

"It is clear that over his life Keith has helped so many people in such a positive way. He will be sadly missed but never forgotten."

Mr Lowde is believed to have been taking his wife and two other couples a short distance from his home on Pharaoh's island in the River Thames to the bank at Shepperton.

He is listed on the website of the Guildford-based Academy of Contemporary Music (ACM) as a music business tutor with more than 20 years' experience in the music industry at a senior level.

His work also included directing a national music festival for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

A 21-year-old student, who did not wish to be named, was taught by Mr Lowde at ACM. Paying tribute yesterday, he said: "He was an amazing guy. He was a big character on the course.

"I was supposed to have his course today. We were told what happened. It was a big shock. I only saw him a few days ago.

"He's the sort of guy who takes control of things. He was a well-adjusted family man. A 100% champion.

"It couldn't have happened to a less deserving guy."

Dr Walford was formerly a lecturer in geography and education and head of the University of Cambridge Department of Education.

He lectured extensively for the University's Institute of Continuing Education and teaches and examines for several other courses.

A colleague of his described the academic as "warm" and "talented".

Colin Dolley, 71, who co-wrote a book on one act plays with him four years ago, said: "The most important thing is that he was enthusiastic about everything he did."

Speaking yesterday, Surrey Police's Inspector Adam Smith said: "Early indications are that the boat left from the far side of the island and rounded the head of the island on its way to the public side of the island.

"At some point whilst rounding the head of the island the boat capsized. The full reasons for that are under investigation.

"The currents aren't particularly strong but there are a number of eddies and whirlpools so it's not necessarily as straightforward as it looks."