Men in lifeboat rescue drama

TWO Felixstowe portworkers today praised the emergency services after they were rescued from a beach in dense fog as incoming tides threatened to surround them.

By Richard Cornwell

TWO Felixstowe port workers today praised the emergency services after they were rescued from a beach in dense fog as incoming tides threatened to surround them.

Stewart Smith-Evans and Stewart Bethell were fishing from the shore but as darkness fell did not realise how bad the fog had become - and the potential danger they faced.

Holyhead Coastguard had to help 57 anglers to safety on the sands at Talacre Beach near Prestatyn in Wales.

Mr Smith-Evans, who works in the labour office at the port, and crane driver Mr Bethell had travelled to Wales with port planning manager Alan Lewis, a Welsh international angler, for a fishing competition.

While Mr Lewis took part in the event, the other two fished from a different section of the beach.

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As the competition finished and people started to walk back to the car park, the fog was so thick the anglers became disorientated - ending up wandering in circles.

Father-of-three, Mr Smith-Evans said: “We heard some people were wandering around on the beach for up to two hours.

“The tide was coming in about 20 to 30 feet a minute and there were areas where you could get surrounded, stranded on sandbanks which would then get covered, so it was quite dangerous.”

Mr Smith-Evans and Mr Bethell didn't feel they were in danger and were quite surprised when an RNLI lifeboat turned up.

Mr Smith-Evans said: “We had lights on and could see each other and didn't really know how bad the fog was getting. When we had started out it was bright sunshine, though we had been warned the fog could come down pretty quickly.

“I had also taken a compass bearing so we were quite confident we could get back to the car park, which was about a 25-minute walk away.”

Although the men told the coastguard that they would be fine, the rescuers were insistent that they came aboard to safety.

Because of the fog, it turned out to be a busy night for the rescue services - called to a host of other incidents around the north Wales coast, with the two Felixstowe men having to stay on board.

Mr Smith-Evans said: “They were fantastic - I cannot praise those guys enough for the work they do. It was quite an eye-opener.”

The pair were on the boat five hours and eventually made it back to Felixstowe just in time for work.

A spokesman for Holyhead Coastguard said visibility was down to just a few feet on the beach and Hoylake and Rhyl RNLI lifeboats attended the scene to help find the missing men.

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