Man rescued from river Blyth in Walberswick after trying to save family dog thanks Southwold RNLI crew
PUBLISHED: 10:48 03 January 2017 | UPDATED: 13:59 03 January 2017
A father-of-two involved in a dramatic Suffolk river rescue has spoken of the terrifying moment he plunged into the wintery waters to save a family pet – only to realise there was no way back to dry land.
Colin Overland was enjoying a Boxing Day walk with his family and their three dogs when Ellie the lurcher leapt on to the harbour wall and toppled into the fast-flowing river Blyth below.
The 52-year-old motoring journalist saw the dog, which belonged to his mother-in-law, Lou Smith, struggling and jumped in after it.
Finding himself in cold water up to his chin and with a strong current pulling him out to sea, Mr Overland said he soon realised his mistake.
Fortunately, as reported last week, his quick-thinking wife Juliet dashed off to get a lifebelt, which she lowered down and was able to drag him up river to a point where she could fasten the rope.
“The water was very cold and there was a strong current heading out to sea,” Mr Overland said.
“First we had a dog in trouble and then I was in trouble too.”
The family members onshore were able to call Ellie over to Mr Overland who held on to the dog and lifebelt for nearly half an hour while the Southwold RNLI was scrambled.
“We had me clinging on to the life belt and the dog clinging on to me,” Mr Overland said.
“Then nothing really happened for what seemed like an eternity.
“It was very cold and the currents were really strong, so I was just focussing on hanging on to the dog and the lifebelt.
“I was getting colder and colder and my fear was I would not be able to hold on to the dog much longer.
“She was panicking, trying to get free, and I thought it would be really terrible if she ended up floating out to sea.”
Fortunately, the RNLI arrived before it was too late.
Lifeboat crew member Keith Meldrum said they managed to haul the pair out of the water “just in time”. Due to being exposed to the cold for such a long period, Mr Overland’s core temperature had plummeted and he had to be warmed up extremely slowly for his own safety.
“We took all his wet clothes off and wrapped him up in a thick fleece survival blanket and after 20 minutes his core body temperature was still dangerously low,” Mr Meldrum added.
“He must have been incredibly cold and was in a life-threatening situation. He was exhausted from fighting so hard against the force of the water and was at a critical stage when we got to him.”
Mr Overland was taken to the James Paget Hospital in Gorleston, but said his temperature had returned to normal by the time he arrived. He was checked over and given a tetanus jab because of scratches from the dog.
Meanwhile, Ellie was given a warm shower and wrapped in two layers of blankets for 20 minutes to help warm her up.
Mr Meldrum said: “She was in a sorry state and shivering all the time – it took a long time to warm her up but she got plenty of love and attention and after half an hour, she walked away perfectly fine.”
Mr Overland said the RNLI had warned him “quite rightly” that he should not have jumped in after Ellie.
He added: “I’m very grateful to the RNLI for what they did.”
Mr and Mrs Overland, along with their two sons Theo, 8, and Galen, 16, were staying at Mrs Smith’s home in Holton, near Halesworth, but have since returned to their Northampton home.
Mrs Smith said Ellie is “fine now” and even made an appearance on television.
When her dog first entered the water, she had assumed the worst.
“And by the time I turned around Colin was already in the water, then I thought, now we’re in trouble,” she added
“The rope was getting tighter and tighter and Colin was getting more and more tired – it was all pretty dramatic.”