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Ken Milburn meets RNLI heroes who pulled him out of water at Halstow Creek

A father-of-four who was lucky to survive after falling from a boat in the pitch black has been reunited with the Sheppey RNLI crew who pulled him to safety.

Ken Milburn, a member of Lower Halstow Yacht Club for 22 years, was in the water in Halstow Creek for more than two hours before he was rescued in the early hours of May 19.

The 63-year-old's calls for help were heard by people living near the shore and Sheerness inshore lifeboat Eleanor was mobilised.

Sheerness lifeboat during a rescue. Stock picture from RNLI
Sheerness lifeboat during a rescue. Stock picture from RNLI

Mr Milburn has since visited Sheerness Lifeboat Station to thank the crew, including helmsman Mark Tucker and crew members Kris White, who went into the water to help him, and Jason Strudwick, who helped lift him out.

“Without the quick response of the Sheerness lifeboat volunteers after they received the emergency call the outcome would have been rather different,” Mr Milburn said.

“I am so grateful for the work these guys do not only for the boating community but for all who use our coastline."

“They were absolutely brilliant. If it were not for the lads and someone hearing me and calling 999 I probably would not be here," he said.

Ken Milburn, centre, with his rescuers, Sheerness Lifeboat volunteers Kris White and Mark Tucker
Ken Milburn, centre, with his rescuers, Sheerness Lifeboat volunteers Kris White and Mark Tucker

Mr Milburn, who sailed solo around Britain last year, explained how he fell: “I was going to my boat, taking some gear over. As I was loading up the boat from the dinghy there was a box and it hooked up with the guard wires.

“As I was trying to untangle it I overbalanced and went into the water.

“I tried to climb back on, but the dinghy had overturned and I couldn’t climb back in. I couldn’t right the dinghy, all it was doing was rolling me off.

“I tried for an hour to climb back on to the boat but lost strength in the cold and dark.

"Whether I would have survived, I do not know" - Ken Milburn

“I thought the tide was carrying me out so tried to go for shore. I went to another boat, but there was nothing to grab on to.

“I ended up getting to another boat and hung on to its buoy, which is where they rescued me from. I knew the tide would be going out and all I had to do was hang on."

His body temperature had dropped to a dangerously low level and he was in the mid stages of hypothermia.

“The first I saw was a light shine in my face and someone got hold of me and that was it. The next thing, I woke up in hospital,” he said.

Despite the ordeal, within 24 hours, Mr Milburn, of Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, was back on a boat on a sailing holiday around Greece.

Since the fall, he has modified his boat so that a boarding ladder can be reached from the water.

Usually, they are tied up out of the water so they do not catch on weeds or other debris.

But he emphasised that it was a simple safety measure that saved him. “Put your life jacket on – it doesn’t do any good sitting on the boat,” he said.

“That undoubtedly saved me. Go for a self-inflating one – 50 quid to save your life. Without one I would not be here. Full stop.”

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