Boat coxswain recalls Exmouth sea rescue drama

THE COXSWAIN of a boat which capsized in freezing waters out at sea in Exmouth has heaped praise on the rescue services for their help.

On an icy morning last Sunday, November 28, RNLI volunteer inshore lifeboat crew members were asked by Brixham Coastguard to assist in the rescue of five rowers.

It followed reports that three women and two men from Exmouth Rowing Club had capsized into the sea near Pole Sands.

Recalling the dramatic chain of events, Brian O’Dea, 66, the club captain and coxswain, said: “We were out just doing a training row when all of a sudden there was a fierce wave which just rolled us over.

“I have been coxing these boats for quite some time and have never seen waves like that before – certainly not in this country.

“If we had been out there in say January of February time when the temperature of the water was a lot lower, the outcome could have been a lot worse.”

Several members of the public had spotted the upturned boat, which is around 35ft in length, and raised the alarm.

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The Portland Coastguard helicopter, which was on an exercise in Sidmouth, arrived on the scene and picked up three of the rowers, a man and two women.

The inshore lifeboat crew then rescued the other man and woman.

All the casualties were taken to hospital. They had been in the cold waters for around ten minutes and were all suffering the effects of cold with suspected mild hypothermia.

Mr O’Dea, of St Andrews Road, who is one of the founder members of the rowing club, said: “All the rescue services were absolutely brilliant. They were so professional and efficient.

“Lucky the coastguard helicopter happened to be circulating in the area around the time our boat capsized and managed to spot us.”

Speaking about the RNLI’s help, Mr O’Dea said he was so grateful that the rowing club would probably hold a fundraising event for them in the future.

He added: “There wasn’t a time as such when I would say I or any of the others feared for our lives.

“The cox is in charge of the boat and one of the procedures when something like this happens is to stay with the boat.

“Because of its size, that was easy to do as there was plenty to grab onto.”

The coastguard helicopter landed briefly at the end of the Boathouse ramp to pick up the other two casualties and transferred them all to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital.

The police, and rapid response vehicle were also in attendance.

Exmouth RNLI inshore lifeboat crew members took the rowing boat back to the station. They were assisted in righting it by the shore crew.

The boat was then towed to the ramp near the resort’s rowing club.

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