Saved from a water tomb

Dramatic rescue at Sunderland Point, south of Heysham, where three adults and one child were rescued by RAF helicopter.  Pictures courtesy of North West Air Ambulance
Dramatic rescue at Sunderland Point, south of Heysham, where three adults and one child were rescued by RAF helicopter. Pictures courtesy of North West Air Ambulance
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This is the dramatic moment a family was winched to safety as the tide engulfed their car.

A huge rescue operation then got under way, involving an RAF Sea King which had been on an exercise in the area and overheard emergency service radio communications.

Sunderland Point is linked to neighbouring Overton by a single-track road crossing a tidal marsh which floods at high tide.

Bar worker Nicola McCulloch, 27, who works at the Globe pub in Overton and lives in Garstang, saw the drama unfold.

She said: “Somebody went down with a rope and lifted them up.

“We saw them going into the ambulance and they were all soaking wet.

“They couldn’t have been local because every local knows the tide comes over a few times a day.

“If you set off and the tide’s on its way in, it comes in minutes, it does happen really quickly.

“I don’t think they got half way (across) and they got really covered with the tide.

“The last time there was a helicopter in the village, a little boy got run over last year so everybody was panicking.”

The North West Air Ambulance was also sent to help and landed on farmland at Sunderland Point, while firefighters, police and ambulances crews were also sent.

University student Emily Hesketh, 19, was shocked to see the helicopter land just a couple of hundred yards from her family home.

Emily, who reads maths but is working at the Globe while on holiday from Leeds University, said: “The water was up to the windows on the car. It was probably about a nine metre tide.

“It comes up quite far and it stays on for a couple of hours.

“Something like this normally happens every few months but this was probably the worst one I’ve ever seen. Normally people come on (to the road) and then realise the tide’s coming in and get out.

“Once it hits the road, you’ve probably got five or 10 minutes to get out of there or 20 to 30 if you can turn around.”

Once the rescue was complete, the Sea King crew went for some well-earned lunch at the pub, which has been run by Nicola’s mother, Lorraine McCulloch, and her partner Barry James for the past nine months.

Ian Jackson, watch officer at the Liverpool Coastguard said: “I don’t think it would have been completely submerged. It would have floated before then.

“But the water was certainly up to the wheel arches and whether it would have gone under is difficult to say.”

A spokesman for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said: “The Knott End coastguard rescue team were immediately sent to the area and the Morecambe team were also alerted.

“An air ambulance was first on scene and reported to the coastguard that the car was submerged up to its axles and was possibly floating, and that individuals could be seen waving from inside.

“A rowing boat with two people on board had also turned up and were having difficulty in getting the occupants out.

“An RAF Sea King helicopter that had been on exercise in the area and had overheard the communications whilst refuelling at Blackpool Airport offered their immediate assistance.

“The Sea King then began winching the family from the car as soon as they arrived on the scene delivering them to waiting ambulances at Overton.”

The spokesman did not have any information on their condition in hospital.