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West Dorset: Schoolboy airlifted to safety
A West Dorset schoolboy – and his eight-strong team of rescuers – had to be airlifted to safety after a simple wrong turning led to an eight-hour overnight ordeal on the Jurassic coastline.
Pierre Wright became trapped in impenetrable brambles and undergrowth on the coastal cliffs of The Spittles after he got lost walking home to Charmouth .
Now 13-year-old Pierre and his mother Amanda have thanked his rescuers and backed calls for the Portland Coastguard rescue helicopter to be saved, saying it is madness if the service is lost to the region.
A major search operation was mounted by police and coastguards after Mrs Wright realised that Pierre had not returned home by 10.15pm last Thursday evening.
He had set off from Lyme Regis in the early evening to walk home to Charmouth along the coast path and through the golf course at Timber Hill, but went through the wrong gate, became disoriented and wandered deep into the unforgiving territory.
As darkness fell and with scratched arms and legs running with blood, Pierre found a small clearing, piled on as many clothes as he could from his schoolbag and waited for help.
Meanwhile his mother, who works at Lyme Regis Sailing Club, had raised the alarm with local PC Richard Winward and the major search operation got under way.
Pierre could only watch in frustration as the Dorset Police helicopter passed over his head half a dozen times.
Finally he heard Lyme Coastguard station officer Graham Turner and deputy Gerry Bearpark shouting his name from the golf course above.
Having located the boy, a team of six coastguards and two police officers struggled through the thickets and vegetation for an hour and a half to reach him in the early hours of the morning.
Realising there was no chance of retracing their steps on foot, the Coastguard helicopter was tasked from Lee on the Solent in Hampshire and Pierre was finally winched to safety to meet his relieved mother and a waiting ambulance at the Golf Club at 4am.
The helicopter then returned and picked up the eight rescuers.
Mrs Wright, who also runs a boat cleaning business, and who has already signed the petition to save the Portland helicopter, said although the local aircraft would not have flown at night, the circumstances of Pierre’s ordeal could happen at any time.
“Pierre was lucky and he wasn’t badly injured, but if he had been that delay of coming from so far away could have had awful consequences,” she said.
“Why would anyone want to take that helicopter away? I can’t understand it.”
Pierre, nursing his injuries, said he wanted to thank everyone who had helped him.
“There were two gates in a field and I went through the wrong one,” he said.
“I was following a path and it got overgrown.
“The brambles started hurting me and it was getting dark, so I found a small clearing and stayed there. I knew people would be looking for me.
“When I saw the police helicopter I took off my blazer and top so they could see my white shirt, but they just kept passing over me.”
Coastguard Graham Turner said while the efforts of the Lee-on-the Solent helicopter crew were “fantastic”, it had taken more than an hour for them to arrive at the scene.
“The time factor worries me – what if this had been someone with a serious injury?
“The Portland helicopter is a must for us,” he said.