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Couple cut off by tide during Charmouth beach stroll were 30 minutes from disaster
A DORCHESTER couple had only 30 minutes before being completely cut off by the tide near Charmouth – sparking renewed calls to keep the Portland coastguard helicopter.
The sea was too rough for the Lyme Regis lifeboat to reach the couple, believed to be in their late 30s, and the Portland helicopter was scrambled to winch them to safety.
It was there within eight minutes of call out.
The couple’s stroll along the beach nearly turned to tragedy when the sea cut them off between two landslips about 750 metres east of the River Char.
Lyme Regis coastguards were first on the scene and estimated the couple only had 30 minutes left before the tide completely swamped the beach.
Coastguard station officer Graham Turner said the rescue was another reason to keep the Portland Helicopter – one coming from Solent would take 45 minutes to an hour, he said.
He said: “With only about 30 minutes of beach remaining for the casualties, it was agreed to scramble the Coastguard Rescue helicopter 106. The helicopter was on scene in eight minutes from Portland and was able to winch both of the casualties to safety and drop them off at a landing site in Charmouth.
“The seascape was pretty rough and it was fairly windy and the surf conditions were far from ideal.
“There was no question they were cut off between two landslides with basically nowhere to go to the east and nowhere to go to the west without endangering themselves even more climbing over the landslides and they were well aware of the dangers of doing that.
“But they were obviously not au fait with the tides especially as we are on big spring tides at the moment.”
He added: “If the helicopter was further away it would have been a lot more scary for everyone involved – us in trying to get them out and certainly for them that extra journey time would have they would have been wetter, colder and more shaken up."
The two casualties were cold and shaken but did not require any further medical attention after the rescue on February 10.
The Lyme Bay Save the Portland Helicopter Group spokesman Geoff Baker said: “This is near tragic proof of the absolute necessity to keep the Portland Helicopter.
“It is extraordinary that our elected representatives still can’t understand how vital it is.
“It is just not acceptable for Westminster to say they know Dorset better than the people who live here.”