The Sheerness Lifeboat team reports that a man clinging for his life to a buoy for two hours in the dark in the Medway Estuary was rescued by a Good Samaritan and Sheerness RNLI lifeboat volunteers. The 64 year old man had transferred from his yacht moored in Halstow Creek to a dinghy which then capsized, leaving him in the perilously cold water alone at night. Eventually the man’s cries for help were heard by someone in a nearby house sparking an emergency 999 call to the Coastguard and a late night launch of Sheerness RNLI’s inshore lifeboat Eleanor at 12.05am on Thursday 19 May.
Within less than half an hour of leaving their beds, the charity’s volunteer crew reached the area at 12.27pm and immediately launched two flares to illuminate the dark night and assist their search. RNLI helmsman Mark Tucker said: ‘We spotted a man in a small rhib type boat next to a mooring buoy who we later learned had been alerted by a phone call saying that cries for help could be heard in the creek.The chap got into his boat and eventually located the casualty in the water where he was clinging to the buoy. Having found the man in the water the Good Samaritan hadn’t been able to get him out and so hung onto him until we arrived on the scene.’
As the lifeboat neared the scene crew member Kris White jumped into the water to support the casualty before getting him aboard the lifeboat with the support of his fellow RNLI crew members. Kris added: ‘It was a pitch black night and the water was extremely cold. The guy was in a bad way. He was so cold he looked blue. We think he had been in the water for two hours. He was lucky he’d been spotted and help came. I don’t know how much longer he could have held on if he’d been alone but the fact that he was wearing his lifejacket undoubtedly saved his life because apart from the extreme cold there was a very strong tide running which would have been impossible to swim against.’
‘This incident goes to show how quickly and unexpectedly things can go wrong, even in a sheltered creek. We’d urge everyone to carry a waterproof means of communication, whether that’s a radio, a mobile phone in a protective pouch or even flares, so that if they find themselves in a similar situation they can call for help.’
The casualty was taken to a nearby slipway where he was handed over to a waiting South East Coast Ambulance Service crew. It is not thought the man’s condition was life threatening.
The ILB crew had earlier been called at 5.55pm on Wednesday 18 May to assist in the recovery of a body found in the water at Strood Pier.