River deaths prompt danger warning

SAILORS were today warned to make sure they treat all rivers with respect, especially when boarding or getting off yachts.The warning came after a tragedy in which experienced yachtsmen Michael Palmer, 62, of Main Street, Fiskerton, Southwell, Nottinghamshire, and Michael Hall, 67, of Halloughton, Southwell, died in the swollen water of the River Deben.

TWO grieving families today told of their devastation at the loss of two “great dads” who died in the cold and swollen waters of the river Deben.

Nottinghamshire men Michael Palmer, 62, of Main Street, Fiskerton, and Mick Hall, 67, from Southwell, were in a dinghy heading for Mr Palmer's 28ft Marlin yacht, after a night out, when they fell into the river.

Mr Palmer leaves his partner of 13 years, Lynne Udall, and his two sons, Andrew, 34, and Robert, 32.

Andrew said: “He brought me and my brother up on his own after our mum died and devoted everything to the pair of us.

“We couldn't ever have imagined a better father; he was very generous with his time and always put people in front of himself.

“He was amazing.”

Most Read

Robert said: “We think they were fighting to the end and that they had that great strength of character to continue.”

Ms Udall said: “He will never be replaced.

“There will never be anyone like him.

“He was devoted to his children, lived his life for them and was very proud of them.”

Mr Hall leaves daughters Kerry, Denise, Tina and Tracy, and grandchildren Pirie, Casey, Laura, Natalie, Charlie, Jack and Barley.

Kerry said: “Despite the tragic events of his untimely death, we know he would have wanted us to know he died doing what he loved most with his best mate.”

Denise said: “Our dad was our hero and the most down-to-earth man. He was our best friend. We just adored him and we know he adored us.”

Tracy said: “He always told us he loved us and was very highly thought of.”

Mr Hall and Mr Palmer, who had known each other for ten years, regularly went on fishing expeditions to Suffolk.

They had been in the Victoria Inn at Felixstowe Ferry on Saturday night before going to the nearby Felixstowe Ferry Sailing Club before setting off in the dinghy to row back to the yacht.

SAILORS were today warned to make sure they treat all rivers with respect, especially when boarding or getting off yachts.

The warning came after a tragedy in which experienced yachtsmen Michael Palmer, 62, and Michael Hall, 67, both from Nottinghamshire, died in the River Deben after falling out of their eight-foot dinghy after setting off from Felixstowe Ferry.

Neither was wearing life jackets which could have saved their lives.

Felixstowe Ferry harbourmaster John White said one of the men could have been making an heroic attempt to save the other.

“We think one of them could have fallen out of their dinghy and possibly the other man fell in trying to pull him out,” said river pilot Mr White.

“At the end of the day it is supposition and I don't think we will ever know what happened.”

Late on a cold wet Saturday night in November the river was quiet and no-one was around to hear the commotion or any shouts for help.

Mr White said although the Deben was no more dangerous than any other river in Suffolk people needed to treat it with respect.

“People are well aware of the reputation of the entrance to the Deben and the changing tides and sandbanks and most are very wary,” said Mr White.

“But the rest of the Deben is not dangerous and we have had few tragedies in this stretch, although some near misses.

“Although there was a fair bit of wind Saturday night, it would have been a flood tide which is not as dangerous as when it is going out.

“I think the part where people need to be most careful is getting in and out of dinghies and on and off yachts - that is the place where they are most vulnerable.

“Sailing is no more dangerous than many other activities and there are few accidents, but people still need to be careful and should wear life jackets.”

The men were found after Thames Coastguard was alerted following the discovery of an unattended dinghy at Bawdsey on Sunday. Police were contacted after the first body was located upstream of Bawdsey Quay just after 11am.

At this stage police are not treating the deaths as suspicious, although inquiries are under way on behalf of the coroner. Inquests will be held in due course.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter