Tractor trapped in Exe Estuary for three days after getting stuck during beach clean

PUBLISHED: 07:00 12 September 2018

A tractor stuck in the mud on the Exe Estuary. Picture: Ian Huxtable

A tractor stuck in the mud on the Exe Estuary. Picture: Ian Huxtable

Picture: Ian Huxtable

A dramatic scene unfolded in Exmouth earlier this week after an RSPB tractor got stuck in sand during a beach clean and ended up completely underwater.

A tractor stuck in the mud on the Exe Estuary. Picture: Ian HuxtableA tractor stuck in the mud on the Exe Estuary. Picture: Ian Huxtable

On Monday afternoon, a stricken tractor was finally freed from the Exe Estuary after a routine litter pick left it stuck in sand for three days.

The coastguard was called on Saturday afternoon, after reports of people trying to ‘dig’ the huge vehicle out of sand in the estuary – despite imminent danger of the rising tide.

But repeated attempts to shift the tractor proved a wash-out throughout Saturday and Sunday and it remained in situ and submerged in seawater.

Martin Freeland, of Exmouth Coastguard, said: “We got called because the tractor was stuck and the tide was coming in. They were trying to get it out and we stopped them and brought them back into shore.”

A tractor stuck in the mud on the Exe Estuary. Picture: Ian HuxtableA tractor stuck in the mud on the Exe Estuary. Picture: Ian Huxtable

Following the incident, the coastguard team also provided safety cover for the vehicle and kept members of the public away.

Tony Whitehead, speaking for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), confirmed the tractor had been helping with a beach clean, on Saturday, September 8, co-ordinated by the Exe Estuary Partnership, when it slipped into soft sand and became stuck.

He said: “The tractor was being used to clear larger items of rubbish, a task we’d helped out with in previous years.

“During the event the tractor was directed to pick up rubbish from a particular spot and in the process unfortunately two wheels slipped into a softer patch of estuary sand, trapping the tractor.

“The vehicle resisted efforts to freed and was eventually submerged by the tide. Similarly on the Sunday, despite continued efforts, the tractor remained stuck.”

The waters around Exmouth and the Exe Estuary are environmentally important and home to a rich variety of wildlife, raising concerns over pollution - a risk which Tony said was averted.

“Given the sensitive nature of the site, the fuel was removed from the tank to reduce pollution risk,” he said.

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