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Parents relive boy's escape from tragedy

PUBLISHED: 02:35 09 January 2002 | UPDATED: 11:08 03 March 2010

A YEAR ago two young Ipswich boys escaped with their lives when an innocent bait digging trip almost ended in tragedy in mudflats under the Orwell Bridge.

A YEAR ago two young Ipswich boys escaped with their lives when an innocent bait digging trip almost ended in tragedy in mudflats under the Orwell Bridge.

Today the pair are trying to forget what happened and put the past behind them.

However one Cumbrian family is today in mourning after a father and his nine-year-old son drowned in a similar tragedy

JESSICA NICHOLLS reports.

IT WAS an idyllic setting, two young boys innocently digging for bait on the mudflats of the Orwell River one Sunday morning in January.

But as their parents busily cooked Sunday lunch happy in the knowledge the youngsters were keeping themselves out of trouble, the picturesque scene was rapidly changing.

The pair, Stuart Duthrie, then 14, from Romney Road, and his friend Richard Eley, then aged 11, from Fletcher Road had followed the tide out to dig for fishing bait but had suddenly become stuck fast, up to their necks in mud.

It was an agonising wait for Stuart's mum, Brenda on the river bank who had come across the drama when she went to look for her son because he was late home for lunch.

Thankfully due to the efforts of the fire service, RAF Wattisham, police and coastguards managed to pull the pair free from danger and winched them to the safety of the RAF helicopter.

Their amazing rescue was highlighted world wide in a media frenzy and the two boys were pictured in The Evening Star with those who saved them.

Yet today, both boys are reluctant to talk of that morning when their lives hung in the balance.

Mrs Duthrie said: "He (Stuart) hates it whenever any of us talk about it.

"Both the boys just want to get on with things and forget about it."

Their story had a happy ending and both youngsters now get on with their day to day lives at Holywells High School.

Sadly not everyone is so lucky and this weekend a father and son were killed in an incident bearing similarities.

Emergency services stood helpless on the coastline of Priory Point near Ulverston in Cumbria as frantic pleas for help came in from 51-year-old Stewart Rushton and his nine-year-old son Adam.

The pair had become stranded on a sandbank after wading out on to the sand during a fishing trip.

They had left their fishing equipment in the car and had reportedly walked out for around ten minutes before realising they were in desperate trouble.

A series of frantic mobile phone calls between Mr Rushton and the emergency services were not enough to save them, as the father of four had become disorientated in the thick fog that was surrounding them.

Reports said that water could be heard lapping around him during phone calls as he balanced young Adam on his shoulders.

He could hear police sirens but could not tell where they were coming from – officers on the shore could hear his cries but dared not enter the treacherous, icy cold water.

Mr Rushton's body was found two kilometres from the high water mark at Bardsea the following morning in an area of mudflats and sandbanks.

His son's body was found a few hours later further down the coast towards Barrow.

Despite the horror stories mud rescue teams are always needed and people will always get into trouble.

Thames Coastguard cover a huge area from Southwold to Kent and have mud rescue teams based throughout the area.

Watch Officer Catherine Boyer-Besant has carried out mud rescue training exercises and described how dangerous and exhausting they can be for all involved.

While two people wait on shore, a team of rescuers go out complete with mud shoes and sledges, similar to those used in the snow.

The main thing is to have a broad platform to prevent others being sucked down into the mud.

Water lances, (long pipes with small holes in the end) are often used so water can be pumped through to liquify the mud.

Mrs Boyer-Besant said: "You cannot just strap someone up and winch them out of the mud as there is a risk of dislocating limbs this way."

Once the casualty is out of the mud the problems do not stop there and the patient needs to be kept horizontal.

"If for example their legs have been trapped the circulation would be very poor.

"As soon as you release their legs the blood will just flow back in but there is a very real danger that it may just drain away from the major organs," said Mrs Boyer-Besant.

There is also the risk of what is in the mud, glass, rubbish or even Wiel's disease, a potentially fatal illness that is carried in the urine of rats.

The disease can be picked up through any scratch, cut or orifice, even the eyes so it is vital that the casualty must be got out as quickly as possible.

Mrs Boyer-Besant said that the two Ipswich youngsters who escaped with their lives, and one was even fishing again the same night, were both extremely lucky.

She said: "Anyone who has been stuck in the mud and released safely is very lucky. The two boys were very, very lucky indeed."

She added that no-one should be tempted to go out on the mud, even if it is just a few feet from the shore.

"Especially in tidal areas as you will drown.

"You cannot move when you are stuck in the mud as you will just sink further … there is no bottom to the mud, you will just keep going down," she said.

Another problem is people getting grounded in the mud when their boats run ashore.

Mrs Boyer-Besant warns that getting out of your boat is the worst thing that you can do – it is safer to stay inside and radio for help.

VHF radios are a necessity as mobile phone batteries can run down or you may not be in a suitable area.

She added: "If you really want to go digging for bait, find out a safe area, call the coastguard who will always be happy to tell you where you can and can't go."

Suffolk Fire Service has also issued warnings to people not to risk going on mudflats at all, no matter how safe it looks.

Divisional officer Eddie Meelan said: "These rescues are very difficult and are very personnel intensive – an awful lot of staff are used.

"You have to get them out as quick as you can before the situation gets any worse.

"Particularly this time of year will be cold and wet and hypothermia can set in.

Information on safe areas of coastline can be obtained by calling Thames Coastguard on 01255 675518.

If you are in trouble the Coastguard can be contacted by calling 999.

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