Diver's four-mile sea swim to save his life

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Posted by on August 20, 2006 at 00:42:49:

A DIVER feared dead after being swept out to sea in stormy weather survived by swimming almost four miles to safety.

John Mallard, 62, had been scuba diving off the coast near Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, on Friday night when he was carried away by strong currents.

A huge rescue operation was launched after the alarm was raised by his son, who had been diving with him. An RAF helicopter, coastguards and lifeboats were scrambled but after almost four hours, they had failed to find him.

As rescue chiefs prepared to widen the search, they received a call from Mallard, who revealed he had managed to swim ashore at Inverbervie after a four-hour ordeal.

Last night, Mallard, who was a professional diver with a North Sea oil firm before his retirement, revealed he was forced to swim for his life after he was dragged from the shoreline and almost dashed against rocks.

He was wearing full diving equipment, including a wetsuit, which helped save his life. After four hours in the water battling against the tide, he managed to drag himself on shore and ran to the nearest house.

“I really thought I was going to die,” said Mallard, from Arbroath, Angus. “I was trying to get back to the harbour where I started my dive but the tide took me away. There was no chance of going ashore because of the cliffs and all I could do was swim against the tide.

“When I got to the surface the weather had turned nasty. It was getting dark and waves were coming over my head — I couldn’t see anything. I filled up my life jacket with air from my tank and swam for it.

“The whole time I was worried that my son hadn’t made it and I thought to myself that I had to keep going and make it back because my daughter would be left with no one — it was thoughts of my family that kept me going.”

Mallard, who was looking for lobsters, started diving at Todhead lighthouse, near Kineff in Kincardineshire, but stayed close to the shore because of the rough conditions. Mallard eventually decided to swim back alone.

He finally saw a bay and let the waves take him in to shore. “I kept hold of my gear and headed up the beach towards some houses.”

Lalita Sharma had been watching television at her home in the coastal village of Inverbervie when she heard at knock at the door late on Friday night.

“There was a man wearing a diving suit asking to use the phone,” said the 52-year-old civil servant. “It was the last thing I was expecting. I had heard something about a search on the news and I realised that this was the same man who was missing.”

On returning to his Arbroath home Mallard toasted his survival with a mug of cocoa before having a hot bath and going to bed. “I got up as normal the next day, but I decided to treat myself to a cooked breakfast,” he said.

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