December 8 2013 Latest news:
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
A man has described how he and three fishermen helped rescue a couple trapped in their car after it plunged from a riverside quay.
Paul Bird watched on in horror with his two sons as the people carrier careered over the curb and into the water off Orford Quay yesterday afternoon.
They were crabbing just feet away when the car ended up nose down, submerged up to the passenger door.
The 44-year-old, whose wife Michelle was also nearby, climbed through the boot to help free the couple, both thought to be in their 80s and not local to Orford.
Fishermen Peter Benstead, Josh Brennan and Neil Macro, also came to help free the pair and lead them safely to shore, before they were taken to hospital shaken by the accident but otherwise uninjured.
Mr Bird said: “We were sitting about three feet away and had just put our crabbing lines in when it happened.
“Luckily the boot was open. I had to clear it out before climbing in and undoing the seatbelts and front doors. Then the boat came round and we were able to help them out. It was a big community effort – everyone did their bit.
“It’s lucky the tide was on its way out, and that the car hit the ground and just stayed there. Had we sat a few feet nearer, we would have been taken in with it.”
Mr Bird said the couple, who were thought to be on holidaying in Suffolk, were conscious and unhurt but both in shock.
Mr Bird’s sons, Jake and Alfie, said they were very proud of their father but disappointed not to catch any crabs.
Fisherman Mr Benstead, who had just come ashore with Mr Brennan when the car went over, said: “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
“We took the dinghy round and Neil came down the steps to hold the bow in place.
“We held the doors open, got the lady out first and put her up the steps. Then we went round the other side to help the man. That was a bit more difficult because he couldn’t bend his legs.
“We had to remove the outboard to get right up against the car. We were worried it might slip. Thank God it wasn’t high tide or they would both have been killed.”
Police were called to the scene at about 2.50pm by a caller who described the car as being “vertical, nose down, with water already up to the passenger door”.
Two fire engines, police officers, paramedics and coastguard were also called.
A group of people clung to the car to prevent it slipping. While onlookers waited for the emergency services to arrive, Mr Bird and the fishermen tried to help the female passenger, who was the first to climb safely aboard the boat.
A spokesman for Suffolk police said the male driver then managed to get into the dinghy safely, and confirmed that the pair were not thought be injured but had been left shaken by the incident.
The car was temporarily secured via a rope before a recovery truck arrived to take it away.
Nick Harris, from near Woodbridge, saw what happened after the car plunged off the quay. Mr Harris, who had been kayaking with his wife, said: “We were at the slipway and heard a bang. We saw there were people in the car, and then an outboard dinghy with two people came round to take them out.
“It’s quite a big curb, so the car must have been going at quite a speed, or it had quite a run up.
“Thankfully, high water had been at 12.30pm and the tide was on its way out. It could have been a different story.”
It has not been confirmed how the accident happened but no other vehicles were involved.