Rescuers save OAP neck-deep in mud

A PENSIONER who became stuck up to his neck in treacherous mud on an Essex riverbank was at the centre of a major rescue operation yesterday. The 82-year-old man was about to set out on a wildfowling trip when his punt slid over his legs at the edge of the River Blackwater in Maldon.

A PENSIONER who became stuck up to his neck in treacherous mud on an Essex riverbank was at the centre of a major rescue operation yesterday.

The 82-year-old man was about to set out on a wildfowling trip when his punt slid over his legs at the edge of the River Blackwater in Maldon.

The pensioner, named as Mike Townsend, was unable to escape the deep mud near to the launch slip at the end of Promenade Park and was lucky to be spotted by a man who was walking his dog on the far side of the river.

Two members of Maldon coastguard entered the mud in the near freezing conditions to help the man at about 8.20am and were helped by Essex Police's marine unit.


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The coastguards, attached to safety ropes, removed the punt and were able to slowly dig Mr Townsend out of his predicament.

About 50 minutes after he was first spotted the wildfowler was winched ashore by a rescue helicopter from Wattisham Airfield in Suffolk.

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A member of the Thames Coastguard operational staff said: “He was pretty much up to his neck and was incredibly lucky because he was hidden from view by a bank on the near side of the river.

“If he had not been spotted he would have been had by the tide - he probably only had a few hours to spare.”

Richard Townshend, the Bradwell sector manager for the coastguard added: “The casualty , Squadron Leader Mike Townsend, who is an experienced wildfowler, with 40 years experience, was out in his gun punt when he got into difficulty.

“As a result of the excessive recent high tides the mud was liquefied due to pumping from the nearby flooded boat lake.”

After his ordeal Mr Townsend, said: “I praise the emergency services who came to my assistance - they were extremely efficient in such difficult circumstances.”

Roland Chesnay, operations manager with Essex Ambulance Service, said: “He was seen by the ambulance crew who had been dispatched with me. Despite his age and the incident he was unhurt though cold. He did not want to go to hospital, so we took him to his home in Maldon and made sure he got a hot bath.

“Given that it was minus two degrees centigrade at the time it is fortunate he was spotted when he was. His location was in a dip and not easy to spot.

“Had he not have been spotted when he was, there was every chance he could have ended up suffering from exposure or developed hypothermia, never mind the consequences of the tide coming in.”

Flt Lt Frank Slatter, captain of the helicopter crew sent out to the scene from Wattisham, said the man was freed of the mud by rescuers before they sent a winchman down to the pluck hyim to safety.

He was then transported by helicopter across the mud to a nearby road.

Mr Slatter said: “It was a straight forward operation, although our winchman got covered from head to toe in mud.''

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