TRAGIC FATALITY - THOUGHTS AND LEARNING POINTS
On 20 March 2006, John (who posts as "runswick2000) posted a comment regarding a new webcam on the lifeboat house in Swanage where he is part of the team. Within that message was a mention of a tragic fatality attended recently by the Swanage lifeboat where it seems there may be lessons for us kayakers from the perspective of visibility in the water, means of communicating and the importance of having emergency kit readily available.
In the hope the information helps save lives, this page is a summary of the discussions from the Community Forum. The posts have been edited to only include content relevant to the incident.
Mike Buckley - 2006
You may be interested to read our latest shout report. A cautionary tale.......people are hard to find in the water at night and don't live long, this fellow was dressed in all the right kit but was dead long before we got there.
The outcome may have been different if he had had some method of attracting attention on his person (flares, vhf, mobile, laser flare, whatever). Search assets were hindered by not getting a position from the casualty remaining on the yacht. As a result we were in the search area long before finding the casualty. WIth a good position we could have found him much sooner and perhaps saved his life.
I've just read the latest shout report. Obviously my thoughts go out to friends & relatives of the casualty.
I'd be interested in your views as to the effectiveness of the various signalling methods you mention (also EPIRB), especially as you'll have first hand experience of finding people with them.
Pros & Cons, which works best in day/night time etc. ?
Hopefully one day I'll bump into you in a kayak when I'm over at Swanage/Peveril rather than in your 'professional capacity'.
We only found the yacht (the guy onboard was talking on VHF but couldn't use the GPS to tell Portland where he was) by using Direction Finding sets on all the coastguard aerials and all the lifeboats involved. Naturally we couldn't have done this with a mobile.
Even when close to the yacht (less than 1 mile) we couldn't see him on radar or visually. He had the sense to let off a red flare and I was amazed........first time I've seen one used at night and in anger and it was the proverbial dog's knackers.
From that we worked out a more accurate datum for the man overboard. The next thing found was a horseshoe bouy and strobe. I was shocked by how ineffective the strobe was. It wasn't spotted until Wiskey Bravo was above it.
The guy in the water was very hard to see, only a small amount of retro tape on his lifejacket.
From this I took away the following: Carry VHF, preferable also a handheld on your person, preferably a DSC set with gps positioning. Carry flares on your person. Put loads of extra retro tape on your jacket and kit. And I guess finally, wear a lifeline at all times when shorthanded, inexperienced or in rough weather. (ED: This last comment would seem to be applicable to sailors rather than kayakers)
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