casualty being winched from the lifeboat into Rescue 169
Two canoeists, out for the day from Weston-super-Mare, ran into trouble when the weather in the Bristol Channel deteriorated significantly. The RAF Helicopter Rescue 169 and the two Weston RNLI lifeboats were called to search for them.
The Weston-super-Mare RNLI volunteers were paged by Swansea Coastguard at 1456 on Thursday afternoon. There were two canoeists reported in trouble near Steep Holm Island in the Bristol Channel. The two Lifeboats were launched within six minutes of the page. A remarkable feat considering the crews were at their day jobs when the alarm was sounded.
The lifeboats made their best speed towards Steep Holm. In the Atlantic 75 lifeboat the Coventry and Warwickshire the helmsman Andy Stoner could see the Helicopter searching near Steep Holm. He did some quick thinking and realised that in those tidal conditions the canoeists had probably been carried some way away. He thus altered course towards where he considered they might be and within minutes had found the two men. The wind had come up and the tide was running very strongly meaning that the two could not keep water out of their boats. One man had been in the water for 45 minutes and was obviously suffering from hypothermia. He was quickly taken into the lifeboat but when the crew examined him they were concerned that he could deteriorate very quickly. As a result the helicopter was called over and the man transferred into it. He was flown to Weston beach and then taken to Weston General Hospital. Here he needed immediate treatment for hypothermia but he soon recovered and was allowed out later in the day,
The other man was in much better condition and so kept on the lifeboat. The two canoes were taken on board and the casualty and the canoes taken back to the Lifeboat station. There, after some dry clothes and a cup of tea he was allowed to go and check on his friend.
Helmsman Stoner said; ‘These two were well equipped but even so had been caught out as the weather and conditions in the Bristol Channel can deteriorate so quickly. However this is what we train for and it is very satisfying to know that the crew have saved two lives today.’
One of the canoeists said ‘What sterling work you do. I cannot believe what you did for us’
The lifeboats were serviced and ready for their next service by 1730 hrs