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‘The night I nearly died’

The oil tanker Freja Svea, run aground off Redcar after being blown on shore during a storm.

The oil tanker Freja Svea, run aground off Redcar after being blown on shore during a storm.

A MEMBER of Hartlepool’s heroic lifeboat service has remembered how he almost died after being washed overboard when the boat he was on capsized twice.

Robbie Maiden, who is coxswain of Hartlepool RNLI spoke about the frightening incident which is approaching its 20th anniversary.

He was a volunteer crew member of Hartlepool’s lifeboat called The Scout which was called out in treacherous seas on February 28, 1993.

It was launched to escort the Teesmouth lifeboat back to station and take over standby duties of a ship that ran aground in bad weather off Redcar.

The Scout was standing by the tanker Freja Svea while a helicopter rescued the crew.

Robbie, aged 26 at the time, recalled: “After a couple of hours the weather was that bad the helicopter had to land on Redcar beach.

“We were told to stand by in case we were needed to do anything else.

“Out of nowhere a dirty great big rogue wave came and capsized us and I was washed off.”

The Scout was then hit by another wave to its side causing it to roll over.

“We capsized twice in a matter of moments,” added Robbie who is now 45.

Robbie was left gasping for breath in the dark and freezing sea, a mile from land where he remained for the next 30 minutes.

Conditions were made worse by a force nine gale, 30ft waves crashing around him and snow.

Robbie said: “It was horrible. It was like being in a tumble drier, I was just concentrating on keeping air in my lungs.

“After about 15 minutes I was aware hypothermia was setting in because I stopped feeling cold.

“I thought about swimming for it but there was no way I would have made it over the rocks.

“Luckily for me the helicopter was still there and the pilot took the decision to attempt to take off for me. He did and after about 35 minutes he found me.”

Robbie’s life was probably saved thanks to the thermals and life jacket he was wearing.

“I think I pushed it to the limits of survival,” he admitted.

Robbie went to hospital with cracked ribs and also needed stitches.

But he was allowed home when after several hours medics brought his body temperature back up.

Volunteer crew members and supporters, including Robbie and Tommy Price who was also on board The Scout, will gather at Hartlepool lifeboat station on Thursday, February 28, to remember the incident.

Robbie added: “It’s amazing how quickly the time has passed. It doesn’t feel like 20 years at all.

“Things like this help build camaraderie among the crew especially on horrible nights like that.

“By remembering it helps the younger members learn and builds camaraderie between us so it is very important.”

After 20 years service The Scout was sold to the Uruguay lifeboat service, where she currently remains.

 

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