Rescue drama for family in dinghy

COASTGUARDS today gave a severe warning to people setting sail in inflatable dinghies after a family of five were found drifting in the middle of a shipping lane.

COASTGUARDS today gave a severe warning to people setting sail in inflatable dinghies after a family of five were found drifting in the middle of a shipping lane.

The family - mum and dad and three children - were stranded in the River Orwell with their small craft taking on water.

They had fixed an engine to the six-feet dinghy and set off from Pin Mill but ran out of fuel, leaving them in the dangerous centre of the river and heading for the sea at Felixstowe.

Rescuers said the man and his family, understood to be from Enfield in London, were “very lucky” to escape with their lives.

Today Felixstowe Coastguard Jo Arlow urged people to make sure they purchase buoyancy aids for everyone - especially children - on small boats.

He said: “People often come to the seaside or rivers from inland and don't realise how dangerous the water can be - anyone going out on a boat should take proper precautions and get advice from either ourselves or a local fisherman or sailor.

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“No-one we have rescued expected their day to go pear-shaped. You need to treat the water with respect.

“For �15 to �20 you can buy a buoyancy aid and while it might not save your life it will keep you afloat and buy you that vital time for people to reach you.”

Members of the Felixstowe Coast Patrol Rescue Service went to the family's aid on Saturday lunchtime.

“They had only inches of freeboard and one lifejacket between them. They had no experience of sailing at all,” said service chairman John Cresswell.

“When a ship went past the wash caused them great problems and they soon would have been swamped.”

Mick Parker, of Parker Communications Ltd, who was on board the service's support vessel, said: “It was astonishing to find such a small boat out there.

“Water was already getting into it. We could have had five fatalities.”

Should buoyancy aids and lifejackets be automatically sold with small craft? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail

A FAMILY today thanked two heroes who plunged into the sea at Felixstowe to help them after they got into difficulty as big waves suddenly hit the beach.

Dad Alex Reid charged into the sea at Jacob's Ladder when his nine-year-old son Jack found himself swept off his feet - and then almost at once found he, too, was out of his depth.

His wife Linda, 42, and their other sons Callum, eight, and Martin, 13, started screaming for help because the pair could not get back to shore and their shouts were heard by David Coates and Elias Barham on the clifftop.

The pair - as reported in the Evening Star - immediately ran down the stone steps and swam out to help.

Mr Reid, 42, of Pond Close, Felixstowe, said: “We are so grateful to David and Elias and so glad they were there at that moment. They did a brilliant job in helping us.

Mr Reid, who works for a logistics company at East Anglia Freight Terminal at Felixstowe, said the family had had a great morning chilling out, fishing and playing on the beach and in the sea where the children were watched by their parents.

He said: “Then suddenly one shouts that Jack is in trouble. I charged into the water and got to him and the sea was about chest high for me.

“He was panicking and I was trying to keep him calm and trying to make it back to the beach and the waves wouldn't let me.

“I was then slammed up against a groyne and managed to climb onto it holding Jack and was going to try and wait it out while my wife called the coastguard, but then Elias and David came to our rescue.”

RESCUERS were guided to a kite-surfer having problems off Felixstowe Ferry by a member of the public on a mobile phone watching the offshore drama.

Tim Meyer called the Coastguard after spotting the surfer getting into difficulties near the notorious Deben Bar.

“I could see he was in trouble - his kite had collapsed - but no-one seemed to be going to help him at first,” said Mr Meyer, who was watching from the clifftops.

“I told the Coastguard he was on the starboard buoy on the entrance to the Ferry.

“However, when they got there he had drifted by a mile - just swept along by the fast water there.

“They seemed to be having problems finding him so I rang the Coastguard again and helped pinpoint him by helping to identify his position. I was just so glad they got him in safe and well.”

The Harwich-based inshore lifeboat attended the kite-surfer at 7.20pm on Saturday after he fell off his board and became entangled with the kite's rigging and took him back to shore.

LIFEBOAT crews are bracing themselves for what is traditionally their busiest weekend of the year.

RNLI East Anglian lifeboat crews and lifeguards are expecting holidaymakers to flock to the coast this Bank Holiday weekend.

The last three August Bank Holiday weekends have seen East Anglian volunteer lifeboat crews launch 81 times and rescue 69 people, while lifeguards have responded to 68 incidents and helped 71 people. In 2008 alone volunteer crews launched 33 times, rescuing 18 people.

This year, with more people likely to be holidaying in the UK, the RNLI anticipates being busier than ever.

Steve Wills, beach safety manager, urged people to take notice of advice and have fun while staying safe.

Holidaymakers are advised to check the weather and tide times and take notice of the safety signs at the beach entrance and if anyone sees someone else in trouble they should call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard.

Peter Chennell, sea safety manager, said: “Our advice is not meant to spoil the fun of water users, but it is founded on the years of experience of RNLI lifeboat crews, who know how unpredictable the weather can be and how quickly things can go wrong at sea.”