A ST ANNES businessman has been sent to Alcatraz – and will brave shark-infested waters to swim his escape.
Keep-fit fanatic Denys Smith-Harti, past president of the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce and owner of St Annes-based computing firm, Intersys Micronics, will battle freezing, shark-infested waters and life-threatening currents to swim from the historic US island prison, across San Francisco Bay to the shoreline.
He will undertake the epic feat this May to raise cash for Blackpool respite centre for terminally ill children, Donna’s Dream House, which suffered £80,000 of damage when it was struck by arsonists in Christmas 2011.
The father-of-three, who lives in St Annes, will be financing the trip himself to ensure every penny he raises goes to the charity.
He said: “It is not an impossible task – well, not completely impossible – and I am not sure I will be able to do it, but it is something different.
“I am a big believer that there is no point in doing something unless there is some kind of challenge.
“When I saw what happened at Donna’s Dream House I just wanted to do something to help and I am hoping people will support me – and raise lots of money for the charity.”
You can donate to Denys’ fund-raising drive by texting “SWAM99” to 70070 with the amount you wish to donate, eg SWAM99 £2. You can follow his efforts on Twitter @alcatrazescape
He has been handed a wish list by the hospice, based on Chapel Street in the resort, and is hopeful of being able to buy a number of specialist beds and equipment to help residents.
Denys will fly out to San Francisco on May 16 and undertake the swim on May 19 as part of ‘Sharkfest’, an organised swim across the bay.
“The start time depends on what time the currents are safest, so it could be 5am or it could be 5pm, I honestly do not know.
“Ever since I came up with the idea, I have done some research into Alcatraz and there are sharks in San Francisco Bay, but they have never been known to attack humans.
“My research tells me that of the 36 people who tried to escape, only one made it to the mainland, and he was in such bad shape that people thought he was an unsuccessful suicide attempt from the nearby Golden Gate Bridge.”
The charity drive already has £1,000 raised at a dinner attended by former England goalkeeper Peter Shilton to mark the end of the businessman’s term as president of the North and Western Lancashire Chamber last November.
FACTS ABOUT ALCATRAZ
• Alcatraz, often referred to as ‘The Rock’, was developed as fortifications, a military prison and a lighthouse in 1868, later becoming a federal prison from 1934 to 1963.
• Native American Indians believe the island to be cursed, referring to it simply as Evil Island.
• As a federal prison, it housed notorious bank robbers and murderers to start with. Later prisoners included mob boss Al Capone and Robert Franklin Stroud - the infamous Birdman of Alcatraz.
• Alcatraz bosses boasted no one ever escaped. In total 36 prisoners made 14 attempts with two trying twice; Six were shot dead, two drowned, 23 were caught and five were listed as missing and presumed drowned.
• Tourists can now visit the National Historic Landmark – given that status in 1972 – by a ferry ride from Pier 33 in Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco.