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Mobile phone signal leads to sea rescue

PUBLISHED: 00:55 02 June 2005 | UPDATED: 05:53 02 March 2010

A MAN and boy adrift at sea in a dinghy were at the centre of a dramatic rescue today after experts managed to trace their mobile phone signal.

The man made frantic 999 calls early this morning as their boat began sinking off Felixstowe but the signal was so bad coastguards could not make out where they were.

A MAN and boy adrift at sea in a dinghy were at the centre of a dramatic rescue today after experts managed to trace their mobile phone signal.

The man made frantic 999 calls early this morning as their boat began sinking off Felixstowe but the signal was so bad coastguards could not make out where they were.

Coastguards, police and telephone experts worked together to pinpoint where the pair were drifting in darkness in a dinghy 12 miles off the coast after the line went dead.

By using signals from mobile phone masts, they were able to identify the area where the dinghy was floating and airlift the pair to safety.

They were found cold, tired and frightened but otherwise unharmed but taken to Colchester Hospital for a check up. It is understood they were later discharged.

Thames Coastguard watch manager Simon Milnes said: "We are still collecting the facts on how and why this incident happened, but we are very pleased to have found these two people alive - this could so easily have been a different story.

"The Coastguard always strongly advises those going to sea in a vessel to take a vhf radio with them.

"This ensures that they can contact us in an emergency and that they are able to communicate with us and other vessels as the incident progresses.

"Of course we do not know whether this vessel had a vhf radio on board, but it was very fortunate that they were able to get some kind of message out.

"We knew that they continued to attempt to make calls but that the signal was not strong enough. We are grateful to Orange for their assistance."

The drama began at around 3.30am when a 999 call was received by Thames Coastguard via Essex police.

It was a very bad line, but the Orange operator was able to advise the Coastguard that a boat was sinking with someone on board.

Calls to the telephone number then went through to an answering machine. Experts quickly acquired rough co-ordinates of where the man on the boat was calling from by using mobile phone masts.

The information was that the sinking boat was between two cells covered by coastal masts so Thames Coastguard requested the Walton and Clacton Coastguard Rescue teams to begin a search and launched the Walton RNLI all weather lifeboat and Clacton RNLI Inshore Lifeboat.

An RAF rescue helicopter from Wattisham was scrambled and Essex police joined the search. An urgency broadcast was made and a fishing vessel True to the Core responded and offered its assistance with the search.

At 5am, True to the Core reported it had found an abandoned vessel, with a dinghy nearby which had two people, a man and a boy inside.

The helicopter and Walton Lifeboat attended and shortly afterwards the man and boy were winched from their dinghy onto the helicopter.


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