Race against time to rescue women from car in harbour
A CHEF who helped to rescue two women from their car after it ploughed into a harbour near Exeter has said they were lucky to survive.
The occupants miraculously escaped the horror crash near Starcross without serious injury. A dramatic rescue was launched when the car hit a wall, flipped over and landed in mud at Cockwood Harbour amid the rising tide.
A third woman, who was driving the Ford Fiesta and believed to be from Exeter, had to be cut free by firefighters and placed on a spinal board after suffering suspected neck injuries.
Rescuers raced against time to free the women as water began to rise around the vehicle.
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Police, ambulance and fire crews, and the coastguard were involved in the rescue operation, which took more than an hour.
Firefighters from Dawlish and Teignmouth used cutting equipment to remove the roof of the car and release the 20-year-old driver, who was then taken to the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital.
Anthony Francklin and his three friends were among the first on the scene. The 37-year-old chef, who works at the Ship Inn at Cockwood, assisted rescue crews in getting two of the women to safety, along with his friends Dan, Matthew and Beth.
He said: "We were there three or four minutes after it happened.
"My mate was the one who rang the police.
"There were four of us biking past at the time – we had finished work at the pub and were going to go on a bike ride to Dawlish Warren.
"I said to my friends 'is it me or is there a car in the harbour?'.
"We rang for the police and when the paramedics arrived, we helped him get the two girls out of the car.
"The third girl had to be cut free.
"It looked like the car had gone round the bend, hit the wall and rolled over and landed in the mud.
"They were very lucky as this time last week at high tide, the wall actually flooded.
"If this had happened last week, the car would have been completely under water."
The chef and his friends helped get two of the girls out of the car.
"One of the girls was in shock and was quite tearful," he said.
"To be in a car that rolled is pretty scary and she was stuck in the back. The other girl who was in the front passenger seat wasn't as bad, she said she had banged her head a few times.
"There was a car following them and I think the driver was with them. He was trying to calm them down.
"It is such bad mud there, he was getting stuck in it himself.
"We did our good deed for the day."
Incident commander Robert Porch, from Dawlish fire station, said the women were "extremely lucky" to have survived the incident, which happened at around 9.50pm on Sunday, October 21.
"By the time we had got the girl out, there was six inches of water around the car," he said.
"If it had happened an hour later it could have been a very different story.
"The car must have turned in mid air to land on the tyres. It landed just a couple of metres from a yacht. Had there been water in the harbour, they could have drowned."
Crews used a mud mat to float the injured driver to the shore.
Crew Commander Porch added: "The woman was brought to shore on a mud mat.
"Because of the water, we were able to use it as a raft to bring her to the shore."
A spokesman for Brixham Coastguard said: "Our team attended the incident and were on standby to provide assistance.
"The car had missed the corner and gone into the harbour. The ambulance and fire service were there first.
"By the time we got there two of the three girls had been taken out of the car.
"The third woman, who was the driver, was stuck in there. The tide was on its way in and we had around two-and-a-half hours until high tide.
"Once the water covers the mud, it becomes thinner and softer and is harder to work in."