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July 17, 2005
Burnham lifeguard and young boy rescued by Spirit Of Lelaina crew

The hovercraft crew helping the pair from the water during the incidentA lifeguard and an eight-year-old child were rescued by Burnham-On-Sea's hovercraft crew at 13:00 hours on Sunday July 17.

Young holidaymaker Neil Carruthers, of Erdington in the West Midlands had been washing sand and mud from his legs and feet when he stumbled off the edge of the town’s jetty and got into difficulties – but a lifeguard, Billy Marshall (19), who went to his rescue then also began to get fatigued in the fast-flowing water.

As the pair were being swept away from the shore in the strong incoming tide, a second lifeguard raised the alarm and the Spirit Of Lelaina hovercraft – which was close by on training - flew to their aid.

The duo were pulled to safety by the hovercraft crew and were then rushed back to safety of the beach.

Eight year old Neil CarruthersLifeguard Billy Marshall (pictured) said: “I’d warned Neil and several others to keep away from the water’s edge, especially given the state of the tide, but he didn’t head the warning and stumbled off the edge and got pulled out by the tide, going under the water twice.

“I dived in and swam out to him straight away but the current was so strong it was pulling me away and under the water too.

"The boy was panicking and was distressed. My main aim was to keep his head above the water. I kept us both afloat until the hovercraft arrived.”

Lifeguard Billy Marshall Alan Miller, chairman of BARB, the group that runs the Burnham hovercraft, said: “They’re both very lucky. The tide had only changed a couple of hours before and was coming in at its fastest speed when the incident occurred.

“Fortunately, the hovercraft was within a few hundred metres of the end of the jetty on training at the time. Our crew were able to rush onboard and pull the pair of them out within a matter of minutes of it happening. It’s fortunate we were there or it could have been a lot worse - this is a very dangerous stretch of water at that time of the tide.”

Teresa Carruthers, mother of the eight-year-old, said: “Neil was in a filthy state, having been playing in the edge of the mud. I’d told him to go and wash the mud off, but he dropped off the edge of the jetty and within seconds was getting pulled out to sea by the strong currents. I’m very relieved that the hovercraft was on scene.”


Official Burnham Hovercraft Web site home page

BBC Online coverage of the incident

Photo of Birmingham Post front page showing the story

Birmingham Post coverage of the incident



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