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Sailor saved by lifejacket is reunited with dinghy by Burnham-on-Sea RNLI

About the author

Image of Mike Lang

Mike Lang
Lifeboat Press Officer at Burnham-on-Sea.

Start quoteThe lifejacket 'probably saved his life.'End quote

Lifeboats News Release

  • Date:
  • Author: Mike Lang

A sailor who fell out of his dinghy was saved when his lifejacket automatically inflated and he was able to reach the shore.

Experienced water user Roger Ferrier, aged 72, was rowing a dinghy out to his boat in the River Axe at Uphill in Weston-Super-Mare.  On reaching the mooring buoy, he made a grab for the rope, overbalanced, and the dinghy capsized throwing him into the water. The downstream water flow was very swift, and Roger found himself being swept down river.  He made a desperate grab for a convenient ground line, and managed to pull himself safely to shore.

A short time later, the air crew of a passing Sea King helicopter en route to RAF Yeovilton, spotted an upturned dinghy in the Bristol channel, a mile or two out from Brean, and reported the incident to Swansea Coastguard control. 

Consequently, Burnham RNLI volunteers were paged at 11.27am to recover the dinghy, Swansea Coastguard already being aware that Roger was not in danger. 

RNLI lifeboat Staines Whitfield was taken along the beach to the station’s alternative low water launch site, launched, and the volunteer crew proceeded to search for the craft, which they eventually located approximately 12 miles downstream from the original incident.  The casualty dinghy was taken to the lifeboat station for safe custody, and Roger arrived to retrieve it that afternoon.

Roger, who is an RNLI Shoreline member said;  ‘I was rowing out to my mooring, and the water flow was very swift. I grabbed for the mooring line and the dinghy capsized throwing me into the water. My lifejacket auto-inflated, and I attempted to swim unsuccessfully against the water flow. I grabbed for a landline, and managed to crawl to the shore.’ 

Lifeboat Press Officer Mike Lang said; ‘Roger was very responsible - he did everything right from wearing a lifejacket, to telling the Coastguard that his dinghy had capsized and floated off. Discussion with Roger highlighted two valuable points -

a) the importance of wearing a suitable lifejacket (it was new, apparently only three months old) and by automatically inflating probably saved his life.

b) The importance of notifying HM Coastguard control promptly in the case of an incident, to avoid a time-wasting missing person search.’

Lifeboat Helmsman Ashley Chappell added; ‘We plotted the estimated course of the capsized dinghy, and showed that it had been swept approximately 12 miles  downstream, by the time we reached it.’ 

Notes to editors

Photographs with this release:-

File name:  MJL301112_dinghy1.jpg  (RNLI/Mike Lang)
Lifeboat crew Ashley Chappell, Lyndon Baker and Vashti Ross-Hatcher with the recovered dinghy

File name:  MJL301112_dinghyjacket.jpg  (RNLI/Mike Lang)
Lifeboat helmsman Ashley Chappell with Roger Ferrier.  Roger is holding up the now deflated lifejacket, that probably saved his life.

File name:  MJL301112_chart.jpg  (RNLI/Mike Lang)
Ashley Chappell points out the final location of the dinghy on an admiralty chart of the Bristol Channel.

Lifeboats in service at Burnham-on-Sea:
A 7.5m Atlantic 75 named Staines Whitfield and a smaller 4.95m D class IB1 inflatable named Puffin.  The station was opened officially on 15th May 2004, but has been operational since December 2003.

Photos and video

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Key facts about the RNLI

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is the charity that saves lives at sea. Our volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland from 237 lifeboat stations, including four along the River Thames and inland lifeboat stations at Loch Ness, Lough Derg, Enniskillen and Lough Ree. Additionally the RNLI has more than 1,000 lifeguards on over 180 beaches around the UK and operates a specialist flood rescue team, which can respond anywhere across the UK and Ireland when inland flooding puts lives at risk.

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