Contact the Bridport News with your stories, pictures and video footage. Send us an email
West Bay overboard angler’s fight to keep ’copter
AN ANGLER has thrown his weight behind the fight to save the coastguard helicopter after it saved his life off West Bay.
Darren Lee was airlifted to Dorset County Hospital after he fell overboard during a fishing trip with friends.
The 31-year-old was freezing and shaken up after spending 15 minutes in the water – and was 45 minutes from shore – before being flown to Dorchester for treatment.
Now he has urged everyone to sign the online petition, is launching his own campaign, has contacted the Shipping Minister Stephen Hammond and is to lobby his own MP Tessa Munt to fight for the aircraft.
Father of four Darren, who was wearing a flotation suit, said: “I was in the water for about 15 minutes.
“The others on board managed to get me back on board for about two to five minutes and then the helicopter was literally overhead.
“It was freezing.
“I’m 6ft 6in tall and a big strong lad but after five minutes in the water I had no strength left in me at all.”
He added: “Without a doubt the helicopter might have saved my life.
“There was the potential there for it to have been very serious indeed for me. I can’t say for sure how much time I had left. All I know is that my body temperature was way down and it was falling.
“I was stuck in wet clothes and we were at least 40 to 45 minutes from land.
“There was no fear of drowning but it was the cold that got to me. Hypothermia was the danger.”
Darren, of Wells in Somerset, was on the West Bay based Channel Warrior with friends on a fishing trip when a wave hit the boat sideways and sent him head over heels into the sea.
He praised and thanked skipper Stephen Wake as well as the crew and the helicopter for saving him and putting their own lives on the line.
Darren, who is now home from hospital, said: “I am getting a petition together.
“The more people who get the hear about the helicopter the more chance we have of saving it.”
Darren has contacted Mr Hammond about his experience and will speak to his Wells MP Mrs Munt.
Channel Warrior skipper Stephen Wake also praised rescue teams for their swift arrival and labelled the Portland coastguard helicopter a ‘vital service’.
Angler Ray Barker, who was on the boat, also backed the call to save their aircraft.
Stephen said: “The Portland coastguard helicopter is a vital service for saving lives and we should all fight to keep it.”
He is also urging other seafarers to buy quality safety gear.
He claims if Darren had not have been wearing the flotation suit he may not have survived.
Mr Barker, 68, said: “It could have been far more serious.
“I can’t praise the helicopter enough.”
A spokesman for Portland Coastguard said: “This story has a happy ending in no small part due to the fact that the casualty was wearing a flotation suit as were the rest of the angling party that he was a member of.”
THE Portland Coastguard station is threatened with closure in 2013-14, while the helicopter faces the axe in 2017.
To sign the epetition to save the Portland coastguard helicopter go online to epetitions.direct.gov.uk/36619