Boater warns people to Respect the Water as he speaks of his relief to see RNLI

Lifeboats News Release

At a time when the RNLI is warning the public about the effects of cold water shock through its national drowning prevention campaign, ‘Respect the Water’, one man shares his story.

RNLI/Carrie Garrad

Simon Burton has been thanking the RNLI volunteers who helped him

Simon Burton, 57, had been out on his boat along the River Dart with his wife and son when he returned back to Blackness Marine. As he was stepping onto the pontoon from his boat he fell into the water.

Although relatively close to the shore Simon was unable to get out, and his wife and son who were already ashore were unable to help either. The wind and tide were strong so Simon knew he had to save his energy and not attempt to swim.

Thankfully Simon was still wearing his life jacket but the cold water had taken his breath away and he was becoming worried about his heart.

Simon said: ‘I very quickly realised that I could not get back into the boat or pull myself onto the pontoon and neither could my wife and son. At this point I became scared because there was no one around and I had just learnt about the effects of cold water shock. It took my breath away and I started to shiver uncontrollably. I felt my left arm go numb, then my right, then my legs it was very scary and I started to panic a bit.’

Simon’s wife called 999 and his son ran up to the boatyard for help and came across occupants from a campervan on his way. A gentleman from the nearby campervan and another boat user who had arrived at the pontoon pulled Simon out of the water.

As he was being brought onto the pontoon the RNLI Dart lifeboat arrived. One of the volunteer crew members helped to dry and warm Simon up by placing him in thermal aids and a rubber head garment to prevent further heat loss.

Simon said: ‘When I saw the RNLI arrive I have never been more relieved in my life, I knew I was in safe hands. The crew were absolutely brilliant and I will be eternally grateful to them and the two people that rescued me from the water.’

Simon Crayfourd, RNLI Area Lifesaving Manager, said: ‘Given Simon’s temperature and the effect the cold water was having on him it just shows how important, how absolutely vital the fact that Simon kept his lifejacket on was. And his decision not to try and swim but conserve his energy was potentially the difference between life and death.

‘Through the RNLI’s Respect the Water campaign we want to start a national conversation about water safety. We’re asking the public to remember this lifesaving advice, share with others and practice the survival skill of floating – it could be the difference between life and death. And if you see someone else in danger in the water, fight your instinct to go in and try to rescue them yourself – instead call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.’

The campaign is targeted at adult men, who account for over three-quarters (76%) of the coastal deaths in the south west over the past five years, although the advice is relevant to anyone who goes near the water.

The RNLI is asking people to visit RNLI.org/RespectTheWater where they will find information on the effects of cold water shock and floating techniques. On social media search #RespectTheWater.


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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 Ireland from 238 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 240 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.

The RNLI relies on public donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. As a charity it is separate from, but works alongside, government-controlled and funded coastguard services. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824 our lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved at least 140,000 lives. Volunteers make up 95% of the charity, including 4,600 volunteer lifeboat crew members and 3,000 volunteer shore crew. Additionally, tens of thousands of other dedicated volunteers raise funds and awareness, give safety advice, and help in our museums, shops and offices.

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The RNLI is a charity registered in England and Wales (209603) and Scotland (SC037736). Charity number 20003326 in the Republic of Ireland