Canoeists criticised after sea rescue

A DRAMATIC rescue of a 12-year-old Ipswich boy and a 63-year-old man has led to a group of canoeists being criticised today after they capsized off Felixstowe Ferry.

A DRAMATIC rescue of a 12-year-old Ipswich boy and a 63-year-old man has led to a group of canoeists being criticised today after they capsized off Felixstowe Ferry.

As reported on The Evening Star's website yesterday the pair were airlifted to Ipswich Hospital suffering from suspected hypothermia after the canoeists tipped over in rough seas about half-a-mile off the foreshore.

Lifeboat officials have said it was “unbelievable” that the party of five canoeists had even entered the water in the face of gale-force winds.

The canoeists - believed to have been from the Ipswich Canoe Club - were first rescued by lifeboats, but then an RAF search and rescue helicopter from Wattisham had to airlift two of them from one of the boats.


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Keith Churchman, spokesman for the Harwich RNLI, said: “It was unbelievable that these people entered the water in such severe weather conditions.

“We were astounded when we asked them if they had checked the weather before and they said they had not.”

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“The training that the volunteer crews do really paid off as five people were in serious trouble.”

The Harwich inshore and offshore lifeboats were called to the scene off the River Deben estuary just before 12.30pm yesterday. At the time, the north-westerly winds were measuring gale-force eight and the sea was rough.

The inshore lifeboat was first on the scene and quickly located two people clinging to their capsized canoes.

Crew on the offshore lifeboat then found two more people in the sea and hauled them aboard. Amid fears of hypothermia, Sergeant Lee Clark was lowered from the RAF rescue helicopter to winch the pair up so they could be airlifted to hospital.

The final member of the canoeing team was discovered and rescued by the inshore lifeboat crew.

The three canoeists, who remained on the lifeboat after their rescue, were taken back to Harwich and an ambulance took them to Colchester General Hospital as a precaution.

The party is said to have consisted of two boys - thought to be brothers - and three men.

Flight Lieutenant Lee Docherty, co-pilot of the Wattisham RAF search and rescue helicopter, said the alarm was raised by the father of one of the boys in the canoes, who was watching from the shore.

He called Thames Coastguard shortly after 12.23pm after spotting them in difficulties from the shore.

Flt Lt Docherty said: “Two needed attention for potential hypothermia and we winched them on board.

“The older male was hypothermic. The young boy was certainly suffering from cold and exposure.

“The group had been out for adventure training. They were about half-a-mile to a mile off the coast.

“One of the young boys' fathers called it in to Thames Coastguard from one of the local canoe clubs.”

Nobody from Ipswich Canoe Club could be contacted for a comment.

N If you were one of the canoeists involved and would like to thank the rescue services telephone the Evening Star newsdesk on 01473 324788 or e-mail www.eveningstar.co.uk.

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