In an emergency call 999 and ask for the Coastguard

Whitstable lifeboat crews were called to a serious incident onboard a sailing barge off the town on Saturday when the two barge crewmembers sustained injuries after a confrontation with the occupant of a sinking dinghy whom they had picked up and had turned violent.

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 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 Lyndsay Hart, Teresa Morris and Scott Goudie

Dr Stefani explained “The purpose of the competition is three fold, firstly to be able to correctly prioritise and manage the casualties, secondly to extract from difficult positions and third, to handle a multiple casualty incident”.

This year the exercise featured the sailing barge Greta which has picked up a casualty from a sinking dinghy whilst on passage to Faversham Creek to lay up for the winter.

After being brought onboard the casualty, played by Teresa Morris, started to behave abnormally and grabbed a knife from the galley before chasing both of the barge crew up onto deck as the anchor was being dropped.

One of the barge crew played by paramedic Scott Goudie had received a penetrating knife injury and in his attempt to escape his assailant had attempted to take cover behind a winch but in doing so, his arm got trapped a by the mechanism sustaining a crush fracture of the upper limb.

The third casualty and second of the barge crew played by Lyndsay Hart was found at the bottom of the ladder leading down the companionway to the lower deck. In the fracas she knocked out her assailant but then he fell down through the hatch sustaining an open fracture to the femur. Meanwhile her assailant now unconscious on deck was very pale and sweaty and the question arises as to why she had behaved in that fashion. Later examination reveals that the casualty is diabetic and has caused the violent behaviour.

It was therefore down to each of the two lifeboat crews to tackle the scenario. As with a real call, crewmembers make their way to the boathouse to launch the station’s Atlantic 85 lifeboat.

This year the two teams taking part were Liam Sidders, Adrian Woolrich-Burt, Joe Lovett and Alex Quan with Andy Williams, Oz Warren, Chris Branscombe-Ling and Ruth Oliver on the second of the two runs.

Arriving alongside the Greta now at anchor around 1-mile off the town the lifeboat crew need to access and prioritise each casualty before commencing first aid. The scenario is perhaps somewhat extreme but to make matters worse the lifeboat crew are informed that assistance from either of the ‘flank’ lifeboat stations at Sheerness and Margate is unavailable and the Coastguard search and rescue helicopter is on another call and has a long ETA.

As the lifeboat crew commence first aid on each of the three casualties the seriousness of the injuries sustained adds to the pressure on on each member of the crew especially as every action is closely watched by observers Paramedic Lee Page from the Estuary View Medical Centre, Whitstable Lifeboat Deputy Launching Authority Andy Barratt and former Helmsman and Crewmember Ray Page and of course the team playing the casualties and all give their assessment of of the lifeboat crew performance at a de-brief at the end of the exercise.

Lifeboat Deputy Launching Authority Andy Barrett who was observing on his first Dan Davies competition at sea speaking after the exercise said “It was an privilege to witness at first hand the professionalism shown by the Whitstable RNLI crews and this is something I would not normally see as the ‘DLA’ and it makes me proud to be a member of the RNLI’.

Following the completion of the exercise, the Dan Davies Trophy was presented to the winning crew of Liam Sidders, Adrian Woolrich-Burt, Joe Lovett and Alex Quan 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.