Man rescued from sea after jumping in to save his dog

A man was rescued by lifeboat crew after jumping into the River Tweed in Berwick to save his dog.

Monday, 19th February 2018, 09:16 am
Updated Monday, 19th February 2018, 09:22 am
Jack Laing, second from the right, responded to his first shout as a member of Berwick lifeboat crew.

HM Coastguard requested the launch of the inshore lifeboat at 4.15pm on Friday after receiving a call about a man struggling in the water off Berwick pier.

He was brought on board and taken back to Berwick lifeboat station to waiting North East Ambulance Service paramedics who treated him for cold water shock.

In the meantime, HM Coastguard had their crew on the Spittal beach across the other side of the estuary and managed to retrieve the dog, a spaniel. It was taken into the lifeboat station where it was dried off and warmed up, before being handed over to another family member.

It was recent RNLI recruit Jack Laing’s first real rescue after completing his inshore lifeboat training in December.

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The 22-year-old said: “There was no time to really think, everything happened so fast. It was a case of getting changed into our personal protective equipment, whilst the launch crew got the boat ready and into the water, then we took off.

“I took instruction from the Helmsman Robert Frost who had help train me and everything you have learnt fell into place.

“We were quickly able to locate the casualty due to the people on the pier shouting and waving to where he was. I was so grateful we had made it in time as it could have been a totally different outcome had we been any longer.”

Head coxswain Ali Laing, Jack’s father, said: “This for Jack was another lesson learnt in showing how easily and quickly someone can become near to losing their life, well done son on your first real rescue proud of you.”

Berwick lifeboat personnel are urging people to heed the RNLI campaign to ‘Respect the Water’. Cold water shock is a significant danger; the seas around our coast are cold enough all year round to trigger cold water shock.

It can be tempting for dog walkers to enter the water and attempt to rescue their beloved animals, but by doing so they can put themselves in serious danger. They would encourage any dog walker if their animal gets into difficulty on or near the sea - call 999 and ask for the Coastguard. The RNLI will attend not just to a person but to any animal in distress, just make that call.

The RNLI is also now calling on the public to fight their instincts and remember one simple skill – floating – that could save lives from drowning.

Cold water survival expert Professor Mike Tipton explains: “We often rely on our instincts but our instinctive response to sudden immersion in cold water – gasping, thrashing and swimming hard – is potentially a killer. It increases chances of water entering your lungs, increases the strain on your heart, cools the skin further and helps air escape from any clothing, which then reduces buoyancy.

“Although it’s counter-intuitive, the best immediate course of action in that situation is to fight your instinct and try to float or rest, just for a short time. The effects of cold water shock will pass quite quickly, within 60–90 seconds.

“Floating for this short time will let you regain control of your breathing and your survival chances will greatly increase.

“Floating is not an easy skill in cold open water but most people can float, and the air trapped in their clothes as they fall in should make it easier. As little exercise as necessary can be undertaken to help stay afloat.

“The recommended floating position is to lean back in the water and keep your airway clear. Keeping calm will help maintain buoyancy. Some people find it helpful to gently scull with their hands and kick their feet to keep afloat. The main principle is to do as little as possible until you have control of your breathing. At this point you have a much better chance of avoiding drowning and surviving until you can swim to safety, call for help, or continuing to float until help arrives.

“Current drowning figures show a clear gender divide, with men accounting for over two-thirds of those who die. So, while this campaign will be seen by millions, we are specifically targeting men - particularly those aged between 16 and 39 years, who are more likely to take risks.”