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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 following an accident involving a power tool in the hold.

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 nearly 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.

As ever 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 University of Greenwich paramedic lecturers Scott Goudie and Lindsay Hart along with volunteer casualty Tony Wood.

Dr Stefani explained the injuries to each casualty “Our first played by Lindsay was slumped on deck and had she had sustained a serious head injury, a severe blow to a shoulder with an open fracture of the upper humerus and had suffered severe bruising with underlying rib fractures of the chest wall”.

“The second casualty played by Tony Wood and located in the hold had been electrocuted with burnt blackened hand and face was lying face down with the ladder on top of him, moaning, when he is turned over he is found to have sustained a penetrating abdominal injury and severe pelvic pains from fractured pelvis whilst our third victim played by Scott Goudie acting the role of the dredgers skipper is becoming more belligerent, his speech becomes more slurred and eventually, if not recognised will slip into a diabetic coma”.

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 and reported to be adrift off the town and as part of the scenario the lifeboat crews were informed that help from other lifeboats and a helicopter was some time away.

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.

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. Clearly the most serious casualty was in the hold. As he was lying face down his abdominal injury was hidden from view it was not clear if was still impaled by the object he had fallen on and crews would have a difficult time in deciding on if and how to move him.

To make matters worse a power cable with exposed wires was also in the vicinity, would the lifeboat crew spot the danger?

Dr Stefani has over the years that the competition has been running has admitted that sometimes the scenario’s are perhaps more severe than most of Whitstable’s lifeboat crews are likely to face however the Dan Davies Competition is a ‘very’ real test of seamanship and first aid skills and the pressure on each team is very real. With Lifeboat Operations Manager Mike Judge, Estuary View Paramedic Lee Page and myself all watching closely everybody wants to perform well.

This year the two crews taking part were Helmsman Rob Judge with crew Tim Smith, Oz Warren and Jay Collins who went first with Helmsman Craig Sidders, Vicky Kypta, Nikky Williams and Dan Monk taking the lifeboat for the second run.

Speaking after the competition Nikky Williams who along with Jay Collins and Vicky Kypta took part for the first time said “We all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves although at times it was very challenging and we are all looking forward to taking part again next year”.

At an evening presentation following the competition Dr Stefani announced that this year’s winners Helmsman Craig Sidders and his crew of Dan Monk, Vicky Kypta and Nikky Williams who also won the award for the best individual performance.