Teenager makes vital 999 emergency call to Coastguard

Edward with his dad, Andrew.
The teenager who knew to call 999 in an emergency and gave vital information to HM Coastguard which helped pinpoint where to send assistance to save a man in the water, has said he knew quick action was definitely needed.

Edward Sweet, who is 16-years-old and his father Andrew, were out for a lunchtime sail from Bosham Quay in Chichester Harbour on 7 June.

The Sweets, who live only a stone's throw away from the water in Chichester, enjoy frequent trips out in their motor boat and say they know local conditions "like the back of their hand".

That day, though, their trip was far from routine. Soon after exiting the main channel towards Bosham in choppy conditions and at flooding tide, they heard what sounded like cries for help close by.

Concerned by the shouts, the Sweets quickly made their way to where they heard them coming from. That was the moment they saw a man apparently unconscious in the water after his boat had capsized, close to Itchenor Sailing Club in Chichester.

Another boat had also responded and was working to help. Even so Andrew and Edward said the man in the water looked "lifeless".

Arriving at the scene of the incident and not aware of how long this event had been playing out for, the Sweets had to react not only instinctively but quickly, with an air of calmness.

Edward picks up the story: “The man from the small tender was trying to hold and pull the other man in difficulty out of the water but was of course very panicked and started to loose his grip,” he said.

“We didn't know how long both men had been there for but the boat of the man attempting the rescue was taking on a lot of water. We knew something needed to happen, and quickly, otherwise they were both going in.”

Edward knew he had to get hold of Her Majesty’s Coastguard – and fast. He dialled 999 and within seconds was explaining what was happening to the National Maritime Operations Centre.

At the same time as the phone call was taking place, Andrew grabbed his lifejacket and secured a line from the stern of their boat before jumping into the water.

Edward kept watch over the safety line making sure that his dad and the man in the water were kept away from the propeller of the motor boat. Miraculously, Andrew managed to get the man’s head above water and perform CPR which resuscitated him. With the assistance of a sailor from Bosham Sailing Club, Steve Hart, they were able to drag the casualty onto the dinghy. The Harbour Master’s patrol boat, which was already on the water, was alerted by Edward to the situation and came alongside to assist. The man was placed into the Harbour Master’s rhib vessel and taken to Itchenor Jetty.

At this point, Edward was still in conversation with the Coastguard and, calmly relayed accurate and precise location details of where the incident was happening. This intervention was crucial in allowing the coastguard to send Hayling Island and Selsey Coastguard Rescue Teams to West Itchenor, as well as call the HM Coastguard search and rescue helicopter from Lee-on-Solent for additional support.

For Edward, what was only a matter of seconds and minutes must have felt like a lifetime as he made the call, giving the information, while steering the motor boat clear of other vessels and of course the men, including his dad, who was on the sailing boat with two others.

On the advice of HM Coastguard and once the men were as safe as they could be at that time, Edward then headed back solo to Itchenor Jetty all the while maintaining communications with the Coastguard. This, despite the fact Edward had to direct the vessel into the jetty on his own for the first time of the season, at some speed and in choppy conditions. Once there, he contacted the Harbour Master.

From there, and with the help of all involved, it was a joint effort to make sure the man was given much-needed medical attention and passed into the care of South East Coast Ambulance Service.

Edward said: “My Dad and I were just two important bits of a massive team effort to rescue this man. It would've been a far worse situation if everything didn't fit into the puzzle with the help of the Harbour Master and the Coastguard were brilliant on the phone and on the ground. Everything came together.”

Reflecting on the incident since, Edward admits he and his dad were both surprised how little they both panicked during the situation.

“We were sat in the car the other day talking about it and the fact we know the water so well really helped us to stay composed. That said, I don't think we had a great amount of time to think – it was more of a case of reacting to what was going on.”

Director of HM Coastguard, Claire Hughes said: “This was some incredible work by all involved. We always talk about why knowing to call 999 and ask for the Coastguard matters and this shows exactly how it can undoubtedly save time and potentially lives. Edward and his father, as well as all those involved on that day, are to be commended for all they did.”

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