A group of Coastguards in various uniforms stand on a grey, rocky landscape. Above, a Coastguard helicopter is hovering.

Episode One

Coastguard Episode One

A look into the stories we'll follow in episode one of our new TV series, Coastguard

In the first episode of our new observational documentary, we see the worrying incident of an elderly walker stuck in mud. It is a frightening reminder of how getting stuck in the mud is far from the cartoon image evoked and cannot be easily fixed by grabbing a tree branch to pull yourself free at the last second. Instead, Coastguard Rescue Teams need specialist equipment and skills to get to him, as the situation becomes increasingly life-threatening.

A preview of the episode

The first episode of the documentary showcases just one example of the work of the more than 300 land-based Coastguard Rescue Teams covering the entire UK coastline and islands. Viewers will meet Gerry, a Coastguard Rescue Officer (CRO) with the Lyme Regis team. Gerry has been a CRO for 19 years and is a member of the team who took part in the rescue of the 70-year-old man from mud.

He said: "We’re trained in what we do and are well prepared. We have had quite a few rescues like this. Our main concern is getting the casualty out and to somewhere they can get a higher level of care.”
A Coastguard Rescue Officer sits facing the camera Watch now

Gerry served 23 years in the British Army before setting up his own electrician business which he runs on alongside his volunteer work with HM Coastguard.

He added:

“I’m an ex-military man and have travelled the world. I wanted to give something back to the community that looked after me as a young boy.  I want to keep people safe. I get satisfaction from helping people.”

Two Coastguard Rescue Officers rescue a man stuck in mud

What is sinking mud?

Sinking mud is more commonly referred to as quicksand and is a dangerous combination of water, mud and sand in tidal areas (where the tide comes in and out).  Most people have heard of quicksand, but not many people realise that it often looks like mud. It may look solid but stepping onto it can quickly leave you trapped and in danger. Trying to get free can actually make the problem worse – it is best to call 999 and ask for the Coastguard immediately. 

Why is mud dangerous?

When you move your limbs around under the surface, the movement creates a vacuum pressure and makes it much more difficult to move. The same vacuum is what causes people to lose their shoes in mud. The longer you spend in the mud, the more dangerous it becomes, with hypothermia and drowning being the greatest risks alongside lots of other potential medical concerns. It is very easy to become stuck, but very difficult to get out.

What should you do if you suddenly find yourself stuck in mud? 

  • Try not to move or wriggle around, as you are far more likely to sink further into the sand or mud.
  • Spread your weight as much as possible, sit down on the mud if you can. 
  • Call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.

Regulatory Compliance and Investigations Team

Senior Maritime Investigator Mark is an experienced member of the team with more than two decades of investigatory work and has been with the MCA for the last decade. We follow him as he investigates the tragic loss of life, revisiting the scene, interviewing those involved and coming to an informed conclusion about how the crew member died. The aim is prevention, and making sure that what happened to the crew member will not happen again. 

Mark has been involved with a variety of investigations and prosecutions from collisions, groundings, explosions and incidents and worked on some vital investigations to bring those people to justice, while also helping to improve safety in the industry. He most recently oversaw an investigation into the tragic death of a crew member in Liverpool, which led to the company being fined £2 million. 
A man holding a backback walks along a city street. In the distance, two parked police cars can just be made out. Watch now
“It provided some satisfaction to be able to bring some sense of justice and closure for the family of the crewman."
Mark, Senior Maritime Investigator

The first episode of Coastguard also takes us to the North Sea near Shetland, where HM Coastguard is responding to a Mayday alert from a sinking fishing vessel.  

With three people in the water fighting for their lives, it is up to the team onboard a Coastguard rescue helicopter to locate the casualties and winch them to safety. This is a tough and dangerous mission, even before considering the treacherous weather conditions.  

We watch this particular dramatic mission from the eyes of Winch Paramedic, John Thomson, who retrieves the casualties from the water. John, alongside his colleagues, reveals the demands of such a feat both physically and mentally.

“Every day is different” says John, estimating he has rescued around 500 people during his 20-year career. From the rescue of one person to the recovery of 15 fishermen from a boat that had run aground, John has been involved with a wide range of rescue missions.

John started his working years in the Army aged 16. Working around helicopters as part of 24 Airmobile Brigade, he quickly gained an interest in aviation. 11 years later John returned to the Shetland Islands where his winch journey began. John was introduced to the search and rescue base as well as the crew, and after five years of working in sales, as well as patience and persistence, he was offered a job.

Responding to callouts is just one aspect of John’s job. For the last 13 years John has also been training new winch paramedics coming into the role. In this episode we get just a glimpse of what John has to do on a daily basis.
A man in an orange flight suit sits facing the camera. He is a winch paramedic for HM Coastguard Watch now
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