COTSWOLD Canals Trust trip boat Perseverance, crewed by volunteers Bob Mulkerrin and Keith Jones, was engaged in the short trips service from Ebley Wharf on Saturday June 2.
As he steered the boat away from Ebley Wharf towards Ryeford Locks, Keith Jones noticed a young man jump, fully clothed, into the water midway between Cloth Mills Bridge and Oil Mills Bridge.
Keith explained: “As we drew closer I saw a dog in the water too, it became obvious that the man was trying to recover the animal. He must have achieved his aim as the dog was soon seen on the edge of the canal across from the towpath. I realised that whilst the dog was safe, the young man was still in the water exhausted and struggling.
“I drew the boat alongside him, stopped the engine and passed the boat life belt down to him. We are shown videos of the effects of immersion in cold water in our training and refresher sessions. This real-life incident was exactly as those videos illustrated.”
Bob Mulkerrin added: “It all went very smoothly; Keith and I applied the procedures and skills in which we are trained and qualified. We ensured the passenger group in the cabin remained calm and sitting down.
“The young man in the water looked particularly fit and muscular but was nevertheless clearly in a state of shock. He was unable to summon the strength to climb on to the back of the boat or to pull himself from the canal onto the terrace in front of the waterside houses where there is a vertical brick wall.
Keith and I worked together to deploy the boat’s rescue ladder. I stepped onto the waterside terrace and joined the young man’s equally fit and muscular companions. The three of us held the ladder and encouraged the exhausted man to slowly climb up to safety.”
It seems that the small dog was pleased to be reunited with its human friends. The group left the scene without delay save for one of the dry members expressing thanks to the boat crew on behalf of his wet and exhausted companion.
CCT’s western boat operations manager Rob Burgon commented:“Cotswold Canals Trust passenger boat crew members are all volunteers. The Trust pays for them to qualify as holders of the Inland Waterways Association (IWA) Certificate of Boat Management. (COBM). Bob and Keith did a good job throughout this unusual but nevertheless life-threatening incident”
Senior trainer, Andrew Phasey, said: “Cold Water Shock is the biggest killer in all marine accidents. We train candidates for the IWA COBM Passenger Boat Manager and Steerer roles to appreciate that no matter how strong, fit and active one might be, it pays to prepare, take care and wear a lifejacket when engaged on passenger boat operations.
The Perseverance crew followed this principle and carried out a copybook rescue.