Mock-rescue turned to real horror

PUBLISHED: 14:59 16 July 2001 | UPDATED: 10:20 03 March 2010

A SWIMMER today spoke of the terrifying moments when a mock sea rescue turned into a real life drama as cold seized his body and left him just minutes from death.

A SWIMMER today spoke of the terrifying moments when a mock sea rescue turned into a real life drama as cold seized his body and left him just minutes from death.

Shipping company boss David Andrews pledged £100 to charity if he could be rescued in a demonstration off Felixstowe seafront because he thought it would be "a giggle".

But minutes later he found himself at the centre of what could have been a tragedy watched by thousands as the icy sea and sharp currents left him on the verge of hypothermia.

He was little more than 50 yards out from the beach when the shock of the cold water on a hot afternoon took its toll on his body, making him lose his co-ordination, leaving him stiff and unable to swim and breathing with difficulty.

Mr Andrews, 40, started shouting for help and had to be rescued for real by the crew of the Felixstowe Volunteer Coast Patrol and Rescue Service's craft.

Today he said it was the most terrifying moment of his life and should serve as a warning to others that the sea was to be treated with the utmost respect.

"I thought it would be a giggle – being rescued by experts from the sea in a demonstration! I am quite a strong swimmer and I thought it would be OK," said Mr Andrews, of Ipswich, owner of shipping agents Forwarding Partners Ltd, of Felixstowe.

"But I hadn't swum that far out when the tide turned me right around and I was swimming back to shore. I turned round and tried again and then I started to get so cold so quickly. It was really frightening. I started to lose my co-ordination and I couldn't breathe properly.

"They got me into the craft and took me ashore and put me in a van with a hot blanket. I was told I was suffering from cold shock and was nearly hypothermic.

"I felt such a fool. But I just didn't realise that my body would have succumbed to cold that quickly – it was a real shock.

"I have swum in the sea many times before but I will be sticking to swimming pools now."

Rescue service chairman John Cresswell said the incident highlighted how easy it was to fall into danger in the sea if you were not an experienced sea swimmer.

"This was a very serious situation and a real eye-opener for everyone who was there. He was very distressed and didn't realise how quickly you can get into trouble," said Mr Cresswell.

"He certainly didn't believe that he could have nearly lost his life that close inshore.

"This could have turned out to have been a tragedy.

"When we hauled him in to the boat he was totally immobile and on the verge of being seriously hypothermic."

Mr Cresswell said the sea temperature was about 53 degrees and it was low water and calm.

"But even in September or October when the sea is at its warmest, if you start to struggle and you take that first mouthful of sea, your life expectancy is about seven minutes.

"You become lethargic, the cold gets to your core, your temperature drops and your limbs stiffen and you cannot swim," he said.

"I think there are lessons for everyone to learn from this and people were able to see for themselves what can happen."

The incident happened at the Felixstowe Motorcycle Show, but despite the drama, organisers today hailed the event, the third annual, as the best yet with more than 15,000 enthusiasts flocking to the promenade to enjoy a day of family fun.

Nearly 500 show bikes entered 14 judging categories from classic to cruisers and tourer to trike and 3,000 visiting bikes roared into town to join in the fun.

Bungee jumps from a 170 crane, live music from four bands and trial bike displays by Suffolk's county riders were among the other attractions.

MJ graves Haulage customised paintwork lorry cabs, trade and club stands and children's entertainment also kept crowds on sight until late in the afternoon.

"This year was by far the biggest yet with the sheer volume of people who attended," said organiser Les Arbon.

"We needed to prove to the council that an event like this can take place and bring people into the town and we certainly proved that."


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