Can you help today by making a donation to give Coastguard volunteers vital rescue gear this Spring?
Each spring, Coastguard volunteers have to cope with a huge surge in calls for help. We need to prepare by raising funds for essential rescue gear like thermal blankets and first aid kit.
A donation today will keep our volunteers equipped and rescue-ready this spring. Can you help them save lives at sea?
Len Dillon (pictured above) used to work as an ambulance officer. He’s helped save many lives over the years. But on a quiet Sunday afternoon his own crisis unfolded.
He was out on his boat with his lovely wife Heather. They were fishing, hoping to land a big one. But, out on deck, Len suddenly tripped and fell head-first into the sea.
The freezing water took his breath away and it took him a while to figure out what had happened. Gasping, he swam as best he could back to the boat, and grabbed on tight.
Heather was inside making Len a cup of tea when she heard him cry out. She raced to the deck to see what was going on; her heart dropped when she saw him. She leaned over and carefully made sure Len’s lifejacket was supporting his head in the water.
There was no way he could hoist himself back on board. His body was weighed down by his waterlogged boots and soaking jeans.
"I tried twice to get myself out of the water, but couldn't,” he told me. “I knew if I tried any more, all I was going to do was probably activate a crook heart and get myself all stressed.”
Holding on was a real struggle for Len. His knuckles turned white, and it took all his strength to cling on and not be swept away by the current. He’s not as young as he once was; he was already exhausted, his body was freezing, and time was quickly running out. “I told Heather, I could survive like this another quarter of an hour, then I'd be getting pretty worried."
Len could feel the energy draining from him. He told me afterwards that he thought his time was up; he started to make his peace with the world. “I thought, whatever happens, I’ve done my bit to make this country a better place to live in.”
Heather was frantic for someone to help. She waved her arms to try and signal a boat in the distance, but it was heading away from them. You can imagine how helpless she felt in that moment. The love of her life was in danger and she could only watch while he struggled.
But then she remembered her mobile phone.
"I really didn't think it would work, but I had my little address book and found the numbers for Coastguard... I think my fingers were starting to get a little bit shaky."
The local Coastguard crew were on standby when the emergency call came in. They could hear the panic in Heather’s voice, and immediately leapt into action.
Volunteer skipper Leigh Armstrong and his crew sped off in their rescue vessel. The choppy sea along the channel pummelled their boat from either side. But in just ten minutes they reached Len and saw him holding onto the boat as the current swirled around him.
They pulled up alongside Len and Heather’s boat, and could see him struggling in the water. "We could obviously see that he was cold and pretty exhausted," said crewman Tony Winyard. Len's heavy and waterlogged clothes weighed him down. With no strength to support his own bodyweight, it took four strong rescuers to haul Len out of the water.
"As soon as he was on board the vessel we sat him down, out of the wind, and covered him in a couple of massive blankets to keep him warm." Len was shaking uncontrollably from the cold and exhaustion.
"If it had been another minute or two, it would have been a completely different story."
Len could have easily drowned. But thanks to you, this great Kiwi gent will live to see another spring.
Len’s story has a happy ending (and his feet are finally beginning to warm up now). But Labour Day is coming up next month. It's the start of the boating season, which means a huge surge in rescues and a strain on our volunteer crews.
A donation today will help us to be rescue-ready. It will provide vital gear such as rescue blankets, medical dressings and stretchers. With your support, Coastguard volunteers can save more people like Len and Heather. Because a life lived together is too precious to be destroyed by an accident at sea.
I hope you can help us today, because we can’t save lives at sea without you.
To make a life-saving contribution to Coastguard this Spring please click here!