Near-tragedy as rescue demo goes wrong

PUBLISHED: 14:52 16 July 2001 | UPDATED: 10:20 03 March 2010

SWIMMERS were today given a tough warning about the perils of the sea after a man nearly died when a mock rescue turned into a real life drama.

SWIMMERS were today given a tough warning about the perils of the sea after a man nearly died when a mock rescue turned into a real life drama.

Shipping company boss David Andrews pledged £100 to charity if he could be rescued in a demonstration off Felixstowe seafront – but minutes later found himself at the centre of what could have been a tragedy watched by thousands.

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, leaving him stiff and unable to swim, and suffering from mild hypothermia.

Mr Andrews 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 the service's 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."

He said Mr Andrews, 40, was not a seasoned sea swimmer and had plunged straight in without acclimatising himself to the water and had intended to swim out about 300 yards.

"The sea temperature was about 53 degrees and it was low water and calm, ideal conditions for the demonstrations we were doing," said Mr Cresswell.

"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.

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

Mr Andrews, owner of shipping agents Forwarding Partners Ltd, of Felixstowe, was taken ashore and made as warm as possible in the fastest possible time. He did not need hospital treatment.

He was so shocked by the ease at which someone could get into difficulty in the sea that he spoke to the crowds to make the point.

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."

Key sponsors of the event included Bradford and Bingley, John Banks Honda, MJ Graves Haulage, Alby's Café, Lings, Felixstowe and Orwell Motorcycles and Moss Scaffolders and Roofing Ltd.

Special thanks go to Michelle Scott of the Felixstowe Motorcycle Club.


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