Swimmer lucky to be alive after almost getting swept out to sea

Wells inshore lifeboat. Picture: Ian Burt

Wells ILB joined forces with HM Coastguard on Monday, July 19 in response to a report that a man had got into difficulty in the channel at Burnham Overy Staithe - Credit: IAN BURT

A swimmer who was almost swept out to sea in North Norfolk had a very lucky escape, a lifeboatman has warned.

Lifeboat crews joined forces with HM Coastguard on Monday, July 19 in response to a report that a man had got into difficulty in the channel at Burnham Overy Staithe.

Wells inshore lifeboat was launched at 5.24pm to join Coastguard teams from Wells and Hunstanton, as well as a hovercraft in the rescue mission.

The lifeboat arrived at the scene within 14 minutes and found the man exhausted, but clinging to the last buoy on the edge of the outer harbour, about a quarter of a mile out to sea.

If the man had not managed to grabbed hold of it, he would have been swept away with the tide.

A map showing the rough location of starboard buoy one in Burnham Overy Staithe Channel.

A map showing the rough location of starboard buoy one in Burnham Overy Staithe Channel. The buoy is about a quarter of a mile offshore. - Credit: Google Maps

The lifeboat crew also found the initial caller up to their waist in the water after they tried to rescue the man – realising they were also in danger as the tide ebbed they had managed to make it to a spit of sand.


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Both were rescued and taken back to shore, where they were transferred into the care of the Coastguard team.

New Wells lifeboat coxswain Nicky King. Picture: RNLI

New Wells lifeboat coxswain Nicky King. Picture: RNLI - Credit: Archant

Following the incident, Nicky King, the coxswain of Wells lifeboat has said that a life was saved on Monday and, if the man had not been able to grab hold of the buoy it would have a "very different story".

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He said: "The problem is where he was, between Gun Hill and Scolt Head the water sweeps out into the sea. The water is like a rapid. If you squeeze water out through a narrow gap, it speeds up.

"It's easy to say with local knowledge but he couldn't have picked a worse place to swim."

Mr King said the man did the "right thing" by grabbing the starboard buoy, which is the last one in the channel before it empties into the North Sea.

He said: "That was a proper job. We knew that he was clinging to the buoy, we knew time was of the essence. Had he not grabbed hold of the buoy it would have been a very different story."

Water Safety Campaign poster, for water safety awareness. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Water Safety Campaign poster, for water safety awareness. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Denise Bradley

Play it safe...Be water aware

We are encouraging businesses to help spread the water safety message by displaying the Play It Safe poster in their windows.

David Powles, EDP editor, said: "Norfolk and Suffolk are blessed with some wonderful places to enjoy water, with miles and miles of stunning coastline and the beautiful Broads.

"However, in recent years there have been several signs that perhaps people are not fully aware of the dangers which can lay beneath and are not fully preparing themselves before going into the water.

"In 2020 we sadly saw several tragedies both on the coast and inland and already this summer there has been one tragic death of a young man.

"We want to spread more awareness to those looking to enjoy our waters and hope this campaign will do just that, plus encouraging shopkeepers and businesses in popular areas to display our specially designed posters."

The posters can be ordered for free, with only a small charge for postage and packaging, from www.norfolkstore.co.uk/store.


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