WORK on an emergency storm water pipe has been halted following an incident which saw five workers thrown into the sea by treacherous waves as they tried to board a rig.
And an investigation has today been launched by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the drama which unfolded off Seaton Carew, in Hartlepool, on Tuesday.
The five men were on a small rigid-hull inflatable boat and were trying to get to the rig, which is fixed in water at Seaton Carew, to carry out contracting work for Northumbrian Water to renew an emergency storm water sea outfall pipe.
But the boat tipped up and flung the workers into the sea, with four managing to swim to shore and the fifth managing to clamber onto the rig.
Two of those who reached the beach were taken to the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton, by ambulance suffering minor injuries and suffering the effects of the cold.
The stranded man on the rig could not be reached by RNLI crews because of the rough seas so instead had to be winched into the RAF Sea King helicopter and flown to the James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough, suffering with hypothermia.
Today a spokesman for Northumbrian Water said the men were aiming to renew the final section of the pipe following weeks of work.
But he admitted that the project has now been put on hold until sea and weather conditions are “favourable”.
He said: “There has been ongoing work to renew an emergency storm water sea outfall pipe, basically so when the system is close to overloading in storm conditions, waste storm water is pumped out through that pipe.
“We have been gradually renewing it and Tuesday was hoped to have been the final connection on the final piece of pipe on the end.
“That work has stopped now. It’s very tidal-based work so we’ve got to have very low tides, which don’t come about very often.
“We need a favourable tide and weather conditions to finish off.”
He added: “The question as to whether the men should have been going out is for the contractors and sub-contractors.”
A spokeswoman for the HSE said an investigation into the incident has been launched.
She said: “The HSE is aware of the incident and are liaising with the MAIB which is leading the investigation.”
The drama unfolded at around 7.50am and ended around 10am.