Burnham-On-Sea, Somerset

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Burnham-On-Sea Hovercraft Saves Trapped Teens
June 2004

Burnham On Sea hovercraftBurnham-on-Sea's hovercraft flew into action on Sunday June 6th, 2004 to avert tragedy near Brean Down. Just eight days after going into service, the vessel saved two teenagers from the treacherous mud flats. Shaken, cold and wet, the stranded youths were delighted to see the hovercraft, called the Spirit of Lelaina, speeding towards them.

The teenagers, aged 15 and 19, had been paddling out from Brean Sands in their dinghy when they decided to walk back to shore. But half a mile from safety they sank waist-deep in mud. Beginning to panic, they were forced to clamber back into their dinghy to take refuge. A member of the public saw the event unfold and alerted the coastguard.

Luckily, the Burnham-On-Sea hovercraft was on exercise at the time and within minutes was on its way to save the youngsters. As a precaution, a helicopter was also scrambled from Barnstaple, but it proved unnecessary as the hovercraft stopped within 10 feet of the teenagers, enabling the mud rescue team to pull them to safety.

As the shaken teenagers left to return home, the hovercraft went out again to bring back five people who were almost one-and-a-half miles out from shore, seemingly unaware of the rapid tides which can so quickly turn a day at the beach into a tragedy.

The dramatic rescues were just a few miles from Berrow Beach, where five-year-old Lelaina Hall tragically drowned in the mud almost in 2002. It was because of her loss that readers of the Western Daily Press newspaper generously donated £115,000 to help fund the Burnham-On-Sea hovercraft which is able to fly over water, sand and mud.

BARB, the Burnham Area Rescue Boat group, which runs the hovercraft with Association Search and Rescue Hovercraft, said the Spirit of Leliana had been an 'invaluable' asset, adding: "Everybody has worked really hard to get it going - it has proved invaluable in its first week of operation."

This story was adapted from a Western Daily Press article.

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