Coastguard "lost for words" as bystanders fail to help elderly man who almost drowned

NewsBy Neil Fetherston
Bangor Marina
Bangor Marina

The Belfast Coastguard said it was "lost for words" that a crowd of bystanders failed to help an elderly man who almost drowned at a seaside resort.

The man fell off his boat at Bangor marina in Northern Ireland in front of a number of onlookers who failed to call 999 for assistance or throw him any of the life-saving equipment dotted around the area.

He was eventually rescued by Co Down man Graham Edgar, who was on duty at the Coastguard Operation Centre, based at Bangor Marina, at the time of the incident on Thursday morning. It is understood the victim has since made a full recovery.

The Belfast Coastguard said it was "lost for words" that none of the onlookers had tried to help.

In a post on the service's Facebook page, a spokesperson wrote: "It's not often I am stuck for words, (but) no one from the crowd of onlookers dialled 999, or threw any life-saving equipment.

"If you see someone in trouble on the coast or at sea, dial 999 and ask for the coastguard".

It is understood the man was fixing his boat when he slipped and fell into the water shortly after 11am.

"Thankfully, this man was rescued and we were not dealing with a tragedy," maritime operation controller Alex Smith told the Belfast Telegraph. "We received a 999 call from a gentleman who said an elderly man was struggling in the water after falling from his boat. He said there appeared to be a number of onlookers.

"He said he had noticed a crowd looking at something and when he went to see what it was he noticed the man struggling. There were lifebelts available and people could have phoned 999, but they didn't. It's impossible for me to say what people were thinking at the time.

"As soon as we did receive a 999 call, we immediately launched the lifeboat and tasked the Coastguard Rescue. A member of our operations staff (Mr Edgar) ran out to the scene and assisted the gentleman. He was shaken but not injured."

Mr Smith stressed the importance of dialling 999 and asking for the coastguard if someone appeared to be in distress in the water. "We have to get that message out," he said. "If you believe someone is in danger, call 999 and ask for the coastguard. Don't assume someone already has."

Friends and colleague of maritime operations officer Mr Edgar took to Facebook to praise their "local hero" after he rescued the elderly man.