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Diver's four-hour swim for survival





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Posted by on August 20, 2006 at 00:44:32:

In Reply to: Diver's four-mile sea swim to save his life posted by on August 20, 2006 at 00:42:49:

A 62-YEAR-OLD diver feared dead in a North Sea storm has stunned rescuers by managing to swim more than three miles back to shore.

John Mallard was diving with his son, Sean, and a friend off Tod Head lighthouse, near Kinneff, Kincardineshire, on Friday night but was swept away in heavy seas, sparking a major search involving lifeboats and a helicopter.

The retired commercial diver from Arbroath had signalled to his fellow divers that he was returning to the surface and that they should continue with their dive.

But the other two could find no sign of him when they surfaced and they alerted the emergency services.

A rescue helicopter from RAF Lossiemouth was scrambled to aid lifeboat crews in the four-hour search.

But just before midnight Mallard was found safe and well at Inverbervie, after scrambling ashore and knocking on the door of a nearby house. He asked to use the phone and dialled 999.

Mallard said yesterday: "When I got to the surface the weather had turned nasty and the tide was sweeping me out to sea. 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. I didn't know where my son Sean and his friend were, I didn't know if they had been swept out too.

"I thought that if they made it to shore then they would call the coastguard but I couldn't see them on the shore so I didn't know if anyone was coming for me."

Mallard, who is divorced, said he was determined to make it back alive for the sake of his family.

"I thought to myself that I had to keep going and make it back because my daughter Trudie would be left with no one.

"I could make out lights but did not really know where I was. I just kept those lights in sight and swam towards them but I kept being pushed back. I kept on swimming trying to find a safe place to get on land."

Mallard could see the lifeboats and the helicopter scouring the area but they kept missing him even though he was frantically flashing his torch.

Mallard then attached himself to a creel buoy hoping the rescuers would see him. "But they didn't see me and I got cramp but I forced myself to swim on," he said. "I thought the search had been called off because it was dark. I thought they had given up on me. I just had to save myself.

"I must have swum for miles trying to find a safe point. There was no point in panicking - I just thought about my family and got on with it. I eventually saw the bay, swam towards it and I let the waves take me in. I was bowled on to the beach. I kept hold of my gear and headed up the beach towards the houses."

Civil servant Lalita Sharma was watching television when she heard the knock at the door.

She said: "There was this man wearing a diving suit at the door and he asked to use the phone. It was the last thing I was expecting.

"He was lucky to be alive because it was such a cold and windy night out there. I am just glad that I was able to help in some way."

When Mallard returned to his home in Arbroath he had a hot bath, a cup of cocoa and went to bed.

"I just got up as normal but I treated myself to a cooked breakfast.

I felt great in the morning and went off for a seven-mile walk.

"I want to go diving again but next time I'm taking a boat with me."

Forth Coastguard watch manager Bob Abercrombie said: "This is an amazing survival story. The diver had been missing for about four hours and we had begun to extend the search by bringing in additional resources.

"He was apparently pushed along by the tide and swam to Inverbervie, some significant distance away.

"We had a lot of units out on this one, and really horrendous conditions. Hats off to the man - he must be very fit."

Stonehaven, Aberdeen, Portlethen and Montrose coastguard rescue teams were involved in the search, as well as the rescue helicopter from RAF Lossiemouth and three lifeboats.
CLOSE ESCAPES

In 2002, Bill Francis from Manchester was trapped in a freak whirlpool for almost a day after going for a swim off the coast of Thailand. He was rescued by fishermen 16 hours later.

In 2004, six members of the British armed forces emerged unscathed after being trapped 120ft underground for over a week in caves in Mexico. The men had to use scuba diving equipment to escape underwater.

In June of this year, two Scots men saved the lives of four sailors in appalling conditions. Three men and a woman were left adrift without lifejackets after their boat sank off the coast at Bonchurch, Isle of Wight. They were spotted by locals who sailed out to rescue them.

Last week, three Mexican fishermen were rescued following an extraordinary nine-month ordeal adrift in the Pacific Ocean. Kept alive by fish, rainwater and the occasional raw sea bird, the survivors were saved by the crew of a trawler from the remote Marshall Islands.



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