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PHOTOS: Driver fined for wasting police time after two are rescued from floodwater in North Devon

By NDJNews  |  Posted: February 11, 2013

  • The car which was swept downstream at Watertown, near Umberleigh, North Devon on Sunday. Picture: Mike Southon.

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A driver who was one of two men to be rescued from fast-flowing floodwater near Umberleigh yesterday in a rescue operation which reportedly cost thousands of pounds has been fined for wasting police time.

The driver of the 4x4 was handed a penalty notice after the two occupants got into difficulty by driving into the fast-flowing River Mole, a tributary of the Taw which had flooded the road.

The 4x4 vehicle they were travelling was swept 60 metres downstream, near Mole Cottage at Watertown.

Fire crews from Chulmleigh and South Molton, along with the specialist rescue team from Barnstaple, two ambulances and a number of police officers were called to the scene at 12.29pm.

A search and rescue Sea King helicopter from RNAS Culdrose in Helston, Cornwall, was also scrambled to the scene but was stood down en route after crews managed to rescue the men by boat.

One of the men managed to self-rescue by wading downstream and climbing up the riverbank. The other man was rescued by an inflatable boat launched by the fire service’s specialist rescue team.

Pete Merrilees, fire service watch manager, said: "The river had been inflated by the recent rainfall and it was wider and deeper than it usually is. It was quite fast flowing and there was no way you could walk or wade through it safely."

He said it seemed the two young men in the 4X4 thought they could cross the river but got caught out. When the vehicle entered the water, it was swept 60 metres downstream.

When fire crews arrived the vehicle had settled on all four wheels but the water levels were up over the bonnet.

He said both young men were in the vehicle when crews got there but one managed to get out and make it to the bank "more by luck than judgement."

The specialist rescue team launched their inflatable boat and firefighters rescued the other man who was perched on the window of the car.

Graham Rooke, Bideford Station Manager, said the rescue operation cost thousands of pounds, all of which comes out of the taxpayer’s pocket.

He said: “We often have rescues after people have driven through floodwater but it’s the first time I’ve ever seen someone try to drive up a river that’s swollen.

“The fire service’s involvement in the rescue alone would’ve cost in the region of £2500-£3000 and that’s without adding on the cost of the police, ambulance and the rescue helicopter. It costs around £800 an hour for one fire appliance and there were two, plus the specialist team for over an hour at this incident.

“People need to be more cautious with more floodwater. We can’t condone these sorts of actions. They’re not only putting their own lives at risk but also the people that come to rescue them and its costing the taxpayer every time.”

The vehicle has now been left at the scene and has been left in the hands of the owner to take of.

Mr Rooke explained the vehicle was not rescued by firefighters as it would’ve been an uncessary risk for the crew to take.

He said: “We had to make the decision whether we were happy to commit crews back into the water to winch the vehicle out.

“We happily risk our own lives to save a life but we’re not risking our lives to rescue a vehicle that is in that sort of position so the decision was made not to go back in and get it.”

Mr Merrilees said the incident could have been a lot worse and said it illustrated the dangers of trying to drive through flood water.

Devon and Cornwall Police confirmed the driver of the vehicle was handed an £80 penalty notice for wasting police time.

Press officer Alan Mobbs said: "This not only wasted paramedics time but also police and fire crews.

"What might seem to be a bit of a game could end tragically not only for those taking the risk but also the emergency services who are called upon to sort them out.

Particularly when it's busy, these resources could've been better employed on other tasks and I would ask that people use common sense in poor weather conditions.

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  • billinbarum25  |  February 13 2013, 7:16PM

    may not be perfect but not stupid enough either to drive into swollen waters after heavy rain !!..everyone has a duty of care for themselves before others not at the possible expence of others

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  • jettagt  |  February 12 2013, 5:37PM

    Re isever***used A excellent comment and i agree 100% The services were and always are on stanby and were not called in just becaause these guys made a mistake. It is a great shame not so much fuss has been made over the accident at the roundabout on sticklepath that the Police caused. i wonder what that will cost? Similar cost I would imagine plus compensation and repair cost to the Focus Police car. What about the last accident there with the Police X5? Did a police spokesman rant on then about costs involved? Two cars destroyed,repairs to road signs and trafic lights.Police investagation, road closed for 12hours, What did that cost because the Police driver made a mistake? The main thing is costs or no costs nobody lost their lives in these "mistakes" As for billinbarum25. Muppets??, Cretins?? Payments for Police services? Charity minded?so the deserving receive the full benifit? pay from their benefits? listen too yourself. .These guys pay their Taxes. A mistake. Nobody is perfect(you maybe)

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  • iseveryidused  |  February 12 2013, 1:21PM

    You are all very quick to critisise and judge these people aren't you? Well, whether they took excessive risk or not, I don't know. But I imagine, that they were just out enjoying driving in the conditions as a hobby. I dare say that they didn't deliberately come unstuck like they did. Just that they bit of more than they could chew. A misjudgement. How many walkers/climbers get into difficulty pursuing their hobbies every year? Are they criticised so harshly, threatened with fines? My guess is no. As for the "cost" of the rescue. This isn't a real cost. It costs the taxpayer a fixed sum for these services, whether they are used or not. And if they weren't "active" on real rescues, they would need to train anyway. This was an accident and they were rescued by the accident and emergency services. What's the issue? Suspending yourself from a bridge for a "prank" is a different kettle of fish!!!

    |   4
  • billinbarum25  |  February 11 2013, 7:14PM

    what a pair of Muppets, cretins like this that waste the resourses of the emergency services should foot the whole cost not just to be fined, if they cant pay the full amount then any /all assets they have to be sold to pay the full amount. if it cant all be repaid immediatly then reguar payments from wages or benifits till it is cleared in full. this should cover ALL rescue/emergency services where people have had to be recued 'etc' through their own stupidity or negligence, genuine cases are obvious to the emergency-recue services so determining them case by case for payment would be easy, time to stop the charity minded bleeding heart view and make the idiots of todays society pay so the deserving receive the full benifit

    |   3
  • Private Investigator  |  February 11 2013, 4:59PM

    Pity that weren't given a singing slap to the right ear as well....idiots!!!!!

    |   -1
  • Stork  |  February 11 2013, 3:38PM

    It's about time that miscreants were fined for wasting the emergency services' time, doing dull things.

    |   5