Firth of Thames Survivor Story 
 
The seventh of January 2015 turned out to be a day that would change the lives of three fishermen forever. It was a calm summer afternoon when Steve, Terry and Colin set out for a day’s fishing...


 
Above: Terry and Steve with the Coastguard Thames Crew 

The seventh of January 2015 turned out to be a day that would change the lives of three fishermen forever. It was a calm summer afternoon when Steve, Terry and Colin set out for a day’s fishing. They were experienced fishermen, they all had life jackets and mobile phones and had checked the marine forecast. But despite their precautions, it turned out to be a day that would change the lives of these three men forever. 

Around 4pm conditions began to change on the often unpredictable Firth of Thames. The sea was getting choppy and their 16 foot boat was being thrown around by increasingly large waves.  

The men dropped their burley pot but with boat moving about in the rough conditions the line became tangled around the propeller making it impossible to start the boat’s engine. Skipper Steve leaned over towards the boats motor to untangle the line. Then it all went horribly wrong as the vessel capsized flipping Steve, Terry and Colin into a churning sea.   

They were flipped out so quickly they didn’t even realise what had happened. They were submerged, clinging to the slippery aluminium hull in complete shock. They watched their gear being dragged away by the strong current and their mobile phones were nowhere in sight. Their energy levels and core body temperatures were about to rapidly drop and instinctively they kicked into survival mode. 

Treading water to stay afloat, Steve grabbed some rope he found floating next to
him and told Terry and Colin they’d all be best to tie themselves to the boat and
stay together. 

Although he didn’t say it aloud at the time, he thought to himself if worst comes to worst, at least they’ll find all three bodies with the boat.

Terry and Colin climbed on top of the boat as their life jackets acted as a shield against the increasing wind chill and they huddled together for warmth. Unfortunately Steve’s life jacket was lost with the boat and he felt warmer in the water than out.

The situation was grim, the three men were lost at sea and their only hope was that someone would come searching for them. The men waited and hoped their wives would raise the alarm once they realised they were overdue.

“We all feared the worst. We can’t explain the feelings of utter frustration knowing that although we were in a lot of trouble, we had no way of letting our families know that we were still alive. The thought of them, not knowing if we were alive or dead was unbearable. “We were utterly helpless,” said Terry. 

Back on shore the wives were expecting their men home for dinner. By 9pm and unable to contact them they became increasingly anxious. Worry turned to panic and they called Coastguard.  Meanwhile the men were exhausted and Steve, who felt warmer in the water, was bordering on hyperthermia. 

“We were in total darkness and so, so cold. We were engulfed in our thoughts, envisioning what our fate might be. We were terrified. Nine hours had passed, and you cannot imagine the relief we felt when we heard a helicopter approaching.” said Terry. 

It spotted them but was unable to winch them to safety so radioed for Coastguard to rescue the men. Volunteers from Coastguard’s Thames unit were deployed at 12.30am in the morning to locate and rescue the missing men.

Allan, skipper of Coastguard Thames Rescue recalled “I remember one of the guys was in worse shape than the other two. I’ve never seen such relief on the faces of anyone in my life as I did when we arrived.” 

The crew pulled all three men to safety, they were in shock but grateful to be alive. 

Two months later the three men were reunited with their Coastguard rescuers and pieced together the fateful events of that night. It was a powerful reminder of how precious life is and how it can change in an instant.

Terry describes having a paradigm shift that night. His priorities have completely changed. He had always been a hard worker, trying hard to better himself and get ahead in life. Now, he says nothing matters more to him than his family. That near death experience has made him realise nothing else matters if you don’t have the ones you love around you. Colin has too. He’s made some life changing decisions that he would not have made if he hadn’t nearly have lost his life that night. 

“We can’t find the words to describe the gratitude and thanks we feel for our rescuers and our wives who raised the alarm. We would not have been here if it wasn’t for them. No one ever expects it to happen to them. We are lucky to be alive and we have been eternally thankful every single day since the accident.” said Terry. 

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