A man who witnessed a stricken woman being pulled from the Thames on Sunday night has hailed the RNLI.

Peter Eaton, who lives in Mortlake High Street, was watching television when he heard screaming and dashed outside.

The 63-year-old said: “We heard this screaming outside and I thought someone was being accosted or raped on the towpath but then discovered there was somebody in the river.

“She was clearly in distress and it sounded desperate – you could hear her shouting ‘Help me, help me’.”

The architect company director was going to throw a safety ring to the woman, who was about 20m out, and considered jumping in the river to help her before the lifeboat crews arrived.

He said: “Somebody else from up the river was shouting ‘Keep swimming’.

“She was going along because of the strong current and I was going to whizz along to Barnes Bridge and throw the ring in and then I thought I might have to get in. It was one of those awful situations.

“The boat arrived really quickly which was amazing.

“They did a wonderful job and if they hadn’t come so quickly I don’t think she would have made it, quite frankly.”

A spokesman for Chiswick RNLI said: “She was very cold and the crew were trying to warm her with blankets.

“Due to the strong current at the moment, by the time the crew located her she was a bit further down by the White Hart in Barnes.

“The fact it was early evening and passersby were able to raise the alarm was a great help.”

The woman was dropped off at Chiswick Pier, where she was looked after by the London Ambulance Service (LAS) and taken to Charing Cross Hospital.

An LAS spokesman said: “We sent one ambulance crew, a duty officer and a hazardous area response team.

“There were no obvious injuries, she was conscious and breathing and taken to hospital as a precaution.”