A LIFESAVER has described how he was almost flung into the sea after a rescue operation took a dramatic twist.
RNLI volunteer Tim Edwards helped save a man from a sandbanked yacht off the coast of St Annes at the weekend – as reported in Saturday’s Gazette.
But moments later, Tim and his colleague Al Sleet were almost catapulted into the stormy sea when the yacht unexpectedly capsized.
The pair had to hang onto the rails at the side of the boat for dear life until they could be rescued.
Describing it as one of the most eventful nights he’s had in 16 years in the job, Tim said: “At the time, the adrenalin kicks in and you get on with your job. You don’t have time to be terrified.
“But when I got home later that night and thought about what happened I did think ‘blimey, that was a bit close’.
“I’ve got three daughters and two step-sons and when you reflect on things, I suppose you think of your family and just thank your lucky stars it turned out all right.”
The drama began at 8.30pm on Friday when coastguards received a mayday call from a yacht which had become stuck on a sandbank at Salters Bank, off St Annes.
On a bitterly cold night and stuck for an hour-and-a-half, the yacht’s owner – in his 40s and travelling from Ireland to Lytham – was suffering from hypothermia.
The mayday call prompted lifeboats crews to launch from Blackpool. Lytham and Southport, while an RAF rescue helicopter from Anglesey was also scrambled.
Tim was on the first lifeboat to reach the yacht.
He said: “As soon as I saw the man inside I knew we needed to get him off the boat because he was starting with hypothermia. He also had a bump on his head and he was a little incoherent so the best course of action was to evacuate him.
“Myself and Al stayed on the yacht while the lifeboat took the casualty back to shore. They returned for us and the idea was to get the yacht in position to be towed in.
“But before we could do that it suddenly overturned.
“It took us by surprise because I’ve been sailing for more than 30 years and I’ve never known a yacht to capsize like that.
“There were big waves breaking, we were getting drenched but we managed to wedge ourselves in between the deck and the guard-rail.
“It was a bit hairy and at one point I was considering dropping into the water and setting off my flair so the lads on the lifeboat could try and pick me up, but I didn’t really want to do that unless I had to. In the end the Blackpool boat managed to get near enough for us to scramble over the guard-rails and drop into the lifeboat.”
The dramatic scenes took place about two miles off shore, opposite the Salters Wharf pub at St Annes Pleasure Island complex.
And despite narrowly avoiding a nasty outcome himself, Tim was more concerned about not being able to save the boat.
He added: “That was our aim – to get the yacht back to shore safely but unfortunately because it capsized we couldn’t do that.
“It is a real shame because it turns out the man who owned the yacht lived on it. It was his home, so he has effectively lost everything.
“That upsets me but I suppose the main thing at the end of the day is that everyone is safe – including us.”
The wrecked yacht was recovered early on Saturday morning when conditions were calmer. It was towed back to shore but is a write off. The yacht’s owner has been released from hospital after being treated for mild hypothermia.
n Lifeboat crews headed out again on Saturday night after a report of a man in the sea near North Pier.
Two RNLI boats were put to sea in rough and windy conditions.
Crews searched for about half an hour before a man was found on the sea wall steps near to the water.