Watch as Coastguard rescues couple ‘just minutes from death’
The Coastguard has released jaw-dropping footage of an air rescue, with the crew on board a stricken yacht off Salcombe ‘just minutes from death’.
Abi Wild, the winch paramedic who came to the couple’s rescue, says: “They were the worst conditions I’ve ever faced, and probably the most dangerous rescue I’ve been involved in.”
The couple from Essex were rescued by the Coastguard as their Transworld 41 yacht broke up in bad weather on the rocky Salcombe coastline. Mark Morrow and Deborah Mitchell were sailing to Gibraltar for a trip of a lifetime having recently moved onto their yacht, the 17-ton Lady Rosemary.
They decided to first travel along the south coast of England, visiting family and friends along the way, but they struggled with increasingly inclement weather.
“We tried to keep moving but we seemed to keep getting caught up and we were moving from one storm to another,” says Morrow. “We decided to just do the short hop to Plymouth when it looked calm – all of the equipment and forecasts said the weather wasn’t going to be bad, so we thought we could make it.
“And then it all went wrong, very wrong.” The engine on the Transworld 41 vessel was brand new and the couple had no expectation of issues, even if conditions worsened. But, as they reached the jagged coastline around Salcombe, the engine failed.
“It just stopped,” Morrow says. “I kept trying to get it going but it was dead. So, I tried to get the sails up, but the wind was blowing us straight at the rocks.
“I realised pretty quickly that we were in trouble and that I was going to struggle to sail out of it.”
Mitchell put out a PanPan while Morrow dropped the anchor, but the sea was too powerful, and the vessel drifted onto the rocks prompting the couple to put out a Mayday.
“She hit the outer rocks and it was just awful,” Morrow continues. “It was terrifying to feel the boat scraping and tearing along the rocks, knowing the boat was all that was keeping us out of the water.
“And then the waves lifted us right over those outer rocks and into the middle of it all, it was the scariest moment of my life.
“The waves were relentless, they just kept coming. The boat sunk even lower in the water and so those waves were crashing over the top of us, it was so hard to hold on.
“We could see a lifeboat but knew they couldn’t get to us, I thought we were done for. We were lucky to still be on the boat when the helicopter arrived. If the coastguard paramedic hadn’t been willing to risk her own life to rescue us that day, we would have been goners.”
Abi Wild, winch paramedic for the Newquay helicopter crew, rescued them just moments before the boat sank.
“We took one look at the situation and knew we needed to get everyone off that yacht, and quickly. It was obvious the yacht wasn’t going to be in one piece for much longer,” says Wild.
The original plan had been to winch the two sailors one by one but, when Wild got a grip on the boat’s decking, it immediately became obvious that would not work.
“They were exhausted, you could see it in their eyes, they were close to giving up,” she says. “The yacht had started breaking up and I knew that we needed to take them both at the same time, there wasn’t time for anything else.
“The conditions looked rough, but it wasn’t until I got down there that I realised how bad they were. It took me several attempts to even get to them, with the wind and the waves, I couldn’t grab on. It’s incredible that they managed to. I’m just so grateful that it went well, and that everyone is fine.”
Although the couple have lost their home – and most of their belongings – in the incident, they say their friends and family have been ‘wonderful’ in providing support in getting them back on their feet. They know they are lucky to be alive.