Burnham-On-Sea, Somerset

Published: August 19, 2006
Burnham's new second hovercraft unveiled at ESCAPE Day 2006

The official unveiling of Burnham-On-Sea's new second hovercraft was one of the highlights during the town's third annual ESCAPE Day.

A crowd of around 3,000 people flocked to Burnham seafront on Saturday (August 19th), when more than 14 emergency services from across Somerset gathered for a joint safety awareness day.

The brand new £15,000 'Light of Elizabeth' hovercraft is smaller than its sister craft, the Spirit of Lelaina, and is set to be used primarily for training and river rescues. The Spirit of Lelaina was named after five year-old Lelaina Hall from Worcestershire, who died after becoming trapped in mud at Berrow in 2002, and the new craft is named after Lelaina's sister, Elizabeth (pictured above), who was born a year after the tragedy.

Lelaina's mother, Caroline Hall, took part in Saturday's unveiling, which was led by the Rev Graham Witts, vicar of Burnham's St Andrew's Church, and Neville Jones (pictured right), the President of BARB, the charity that manages the craft.

The ceremony included a blessing and prayers for the new craft by Rev Witts and the customary dousing of the craft in champagne (pictured below).

Last year's captains of Brean Golf Club - Bob Masterman and Deirdre Wheadon - were presented with a certificate to mark their incredible efforts in raising £9,000 towards the new craft. BARB Chairman Alan Miller also praised the "considerable" support of the Western Daily Press for its ongoing support.

ESCAPE, the Emergency Services Community Awareness and Promotion Event, was then officially opened by Burnham and Highbridge Mayor Eric Gill - starting a day of non-stop demonstrations and displays.

Among the emergency groups taking part in this year's event were Burnham Coastguards, Avon and Somerset Police, Somerset Fire and Rescue, BARB, Burnham-On-Sea RNLI and St John Ambulance.

Other groups participating were Somerset Air Ambulance, Skywatch rescue micro lights, Freewheelers Blood Bikes, Somerset 4x4 response, Highways Agency Traffic Patrols and Burnham lifeguards.

Vehicles from each service were on display along the seafront and life-saving demonstrations were also held in the waters of Bridgwater Bay and in the air above the town, providing spectators with a rare chance to see the crews' work close-up.

A simulated mud rescue was performed in Bridgwater Bay by the Coastguard Mud Rescue Team and Burnham's Spirit Of Lelaina hovercraft. It successfully showed the dangers of venturing out into the mud.

Other demonstrations involving the town's lifeboats, micro lights, St John Ambulance paramedics and Coastguards were held throughout the day.

BARB, the group that operates Burnham's rescue hovercraft, organised the event, having successfully launched it in 2004.

"It's been a really great event," said BARB Chairman Alan Miller.

"We received around 3,000 visitors during the day and although the final demonstration of the day - a fly-past of the lifeboats, two hovercrafts and micro-lights - was cancelled due to poor weather, it remained a great success."

"The day provided the crowds with an opportunity to meet the rescue crews from our local emergency services and see at first hand their valuable work."

He also praised the work of the event's organiser, Roger Flower, for his efforts in ensuring the day went to plan.

Coastguard Mud Rescue Team members after their rescue demonstration with the Burnham hovercraft

The Coastguard Mud Rescue team pulls a 'casualty' through thick mud on Stert Island to the waiting Spirit Of Lelaina hovercraft during Saturday's event

Vintage emergency vehciles were on display on the seafront during the day

Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance's Ken Restarick and Mike Greenhoff

Sky Watch's Graham Whitehead, who oversaw the landing of six microlights on Burnham beach

BARB chairman Alan Miller buying a copy of the Western Daily Press from staff manning their trade van

St John ambulance staff tend to a 'casualty' during the group's demonstration underneath Burnham's jetty

St John staff ferry the 'casualty' to the waiting Coastguard truck

Youngsters enjoyed trying out the Freewheeler Blood Bikes

Members of the RNLI Suppporters Group manning their stall

Tim Smith from the Highways Agency talked to the crowds of visitors about road safety

Somerset 4x4 Response was represented by Terry Came, Paul Martin and Peter Greenaway

West Country Knotters' Richard Hopkins demonstrates his rope skills

Alex Turco and other members of Burnham's Curtain Call drama group performed songs during BCRfm roadshow

Burnham's Community Policing Unit was on scene and Victoria Robinson (8), Craig Robinson (6) talked about safety with Community Support Officer Gill Udall

The RNLI performed a drift rescue in Bridgwater Bay when two crew members showed how fast the currents can be floating from the low lighthouse to the town's jetty in a matter of minutes

The RNLI's James Morris and Nick Prout after their drift exercise

An orange flare helps the pilots of six microlights know where to land on Burnham beach

One of the six Sky Watch microlights touches down on Burnham beach

The six microlights made an unusual sight on the sands

The crowds of visitors flocked to see the Sky Watch microlights up close

Burnham and Highbridge St John staff Stevie Smith, Dianne Britain, Claire Gough, Keith Gough and Erica Murphy.

Burnham firefighters show their life-saving equipment to the crowds

RNLI members jump off a boat onto a landing tractor at the end of their second demonstration in which a boat 'on fire' was rescued


Online video of the St John Ambulance paramedics demonstration

2004 ESCAPE Day

2005 ESCAPE Day


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