In an emergency call 999 and ask for the Coastguard

Whitstable lifeboat crews were called to a serious incident onboard a cockle dredger off the harbour on Saturday when three of the vessels crew sustained injuries after the vessel grounded heavily on a sandbank.

This was however, only an exercise. Two of the station’s crews were taking part in the annual Dan Davies Competition an event unique to Whitstable Lifeboat Station designed to test seamanship and first aid skills which, has been held for over 40-years in memory of Dr Dan Davies a former Whitstable GP and the station’s first Honorary Medical Advisor who passed away in 1977.

The scenario had been devised by Dr Terry Stefani, Whitstable Lifeboat Casualty Care Co-ordinator and included casualties with simulated but realistic injuries played by paramedics Sian Sidders, Lisa Page and Ian Wood from the South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAMB).

Onboard cockle dredger ‘Oly Ray’ the first casualty, the skipper, played by Sian Sidders has fallen heavily in the night whilst drunk and crawled to a bunk and now has severe back pain and may have suffered spinal injuries and paraesthesia in the lower limbs. All through the rescue she demands an explanation about what is going on. Removing her from the bunk in a confined space would prove to be a challenging problem.

The second casualty played by Ian Wood was working behind the forward hatch door when the boat struck and the door smashed into him causing a head injury and crushing his humerus whilst the third casualty played by Lisa Page is initially found in the upper part of the wheel house and is in a total panic, barely able to articulate as to what has happened and steadily has an asthma attack.

If all this was not enough for the two lifeboat crews to deal with, their first task was to locate the casualty vessel, the Whitstable cockle dredger ‘Oly Ray’ provided for the exercise by Pat Gilson of Cardium Shellfish.

The two lifeboat crews took it in turns to deal with the situation, the lifeboat being launched and sent off to a point about two miles seaward for a simulated search before being diverted to the actual exercise location alongside the west quay of the harbour. As part of the scenario the lifeboat crews were informed that help from other lifeboats a helicopter and other emergency services were not available.

This year the two crews taking part were Helmsman Rob Judge with his crew of Tim Smith, Andy Williams and Alex Quan who went first followed by Helmsman Andy Mayo with Ruth Oliver, Mike Keam and Liam Sidders taking the lifeboat for the second run.

On arrival alongside the ‘Oly Ray’ the crews first had to secure the lifeboat and once onboard the casualty vessel asses each casualty in turn and prioritise each depending on the severity of injuries. Whilst only an exercise the pressure on the two lifeboat crews is very real. Every action is watched closely by Dr Stefani, Lifeboat Operations Manager Mike Judge and Estuary View Paramedic Lee Page.

Following the completion of the exercise, the Dan Davies Trophy was presented to the winning crew of Helmsman Andy Mayo and his crew of Ruth Oliver, Mike Keam and Liam Sidders by Mrs Fiona Davies, daughter in law of Dr Dan Davies and she also presented the ‘Kit’ Davies trophy in memory of her late husband Christopher to Liam Sidders for the best individual performance.

Speaking after the competition Dr Terry Stefani said “It was a challenging scenario, but both crews rose to the task in a difficult and complicated situation, dealing with very seriously ill casualties in cramped and inacessible locations around the casualty vessel”.

“Their professionalism, standard of communication between each other and the coastguard and they way they organised the rescue was exceptional, even the paramedics who acted as casualties admitted they would have struggled in the circumstances”.