BHC Hovercraft Pilot and instructor Dave Larkins assisted KSAR, KFAR and Kent Police with recent search and rescue operations in the River Stour and Pegwell Bay areas in Sandwich, Kent after a 6 year old boy had fallen into the river without a life jacket.
Mr Larkins says “After coordination from KSAR we obtained permission to deploy our search and rescue hovercraft from the disused hoverpad at Pegwell Bay which gave us immediate access to the area. The hovercraft proved to be an essential asset in searching parts of the river Stour and Pegwell Bay at low tide.”
During the search a member of the public who was out at night driving his 4×4 had ventured out into the mud and got stuck as the tide was coming in.
Dave Larkins came across the car while he was out scouring the bay on a hovercraft for young Lucas.
Mr Larkins says “The community response was absolutely fantastic, people came from far and wide to assist our emergency services with the search. I’ve been educating people about the potential dangers of our intertidal area, as you can see it’s easy to get stuck and the tide comes in quickly! The 4×4 owner was just trying to do his bit to help but had become trapped in the mud. People may have been a bit naive going out and doing a good thing but were also putting themselves in danger.”
Mr Larkins says the strong tidal currents, gullies and sinking sand makes Pegwell Bay a “treacherous” area to explore by foot and car. He added “There’s definitely more work to be done with educating people about our potentially dangerous intertidal areas and how to keep safe. It’s clear to see that a hovercraft really is the best tool for the job in these difficult to access locations.”
He has now suggested creating a hovercraft-based branch of KSAR to help conduct searches in wide river estuaries such as the Stour at Pegwell Bay or the River Medway.
Mr Larkins says this would be cheaper than being forced to launch a helicopter in harder to reach and dangerous areas.
“If there’s a need to have a hovercraft service in the area then I’m happy to provide it if it’s something KSAR want to build in,” Mr Larkins added. “I think it would be a good option to consider.
“Thanks to our fantastic emergency response teams and to the hundreds of volunteers that gave up their time to help in the search. We were all proud to support in a time of need.”
He said his heart goes out to Lucas’ family and hopes they would be able to get some closure after his body was finally discovered.