Published: 06:00, 17 April 2019
| Updated: 08:04, 17 April 2019
A pensioner on a mobility scooter feared he would drown after reversing off a jetty at Ramsgate Marina and into the ice-cold water.
Christopher Douglas plunged off the side of the pontoon after the accelerator on his disability vehicle became jammed stuck.
As the 75-year-old struggled to resurface, he found himself trapped beneath the wooden jetty.
WATCH: Christopher Douglas speaks of his near-death experience
Fortunately, his cries for help were heard by trainee firefighters close by, who pulled him from the water.
Mr Douglas has relived the incident, which happened next to his boat, Orla, shortly before 6pm on Thursday.
“I was reversing the scooter, and the accelerator got jammed,” he said.
“It dropped me over the pontoon into the water.
“When I came up, I was under the pontoon, and I had to move under it to the side of the boat, and I couldn’t get to the reverse of the boat, to a ladder.
“By the time I got to the centre, I was already freezing.”
Mr Douglas, who lives on the boat with his dog, Champagne, says if it wasn’t for his rescuers, he would have been "fished up from the bottom".
“Luckily, some firefighters were on a training course and seven of them jumped over the scaffolding and three of them managed to get me out, and three of them managed to recover my scooter,” he said.
“They are incredible. I want to be able to say thank you to them.
"They were prepared to go into the water to get me, which is amazing. That’s why, to me, they went beyond the call of duty.
“They are just incredible gentlemen. They were worried I had inhaled water, but I hadn’t - I knew I was going in so I’d taken a deep breath.”
A Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS) spokesman said a number of trainee firefighters were off-duty and about to sit down for dinner in a restaurant near Ramsgate Harbour at the time of the incident.
“One of the team was still outside the restaurant when he witnessed a man on a mobility scooter fall backwards off the pontoon and into the water,” they said.
“He raised the alarm to the others, who joined him at the scene to help.
“One of the trainee firefighters lay down on the pontoon and reached into the water to keep the man’s head above water as two others helped pull him back onto the safety of the pontoon; they also pulled the scooter out.
"They located some dry towels and blankets to make the man comfortable before the ambulance arrived.”
Mr Douglas says the situation was worsened by the freezing water, and fears the incident could have taken a tragic turn if he had not been rescued after 15 minutes.
He said: “Trying to swim in shoes, a winter jacket and winter clothes was very difficult.
“The main thing is trying to find something to get hold of to stop yourself going down.
“I would have been fished up from the bottom, because you couldn’t last very long in there.
“It was only when I managed to get alongside the boat that I started freezing up and calling for help.
"I knew I wouldn’t be able to get to and up the ladder. The cold just gets into you so quickly.”
But, despite his plight, Mr Douglas says it has not deterred him from living a sailor’s life, and he is looking to fund another scooter as his has been written off.
“I’ve got to get another mobility scooter because I’ve got metal knees, a metal hip, and a metal ankle, so I’m really rebuilt and need the scooter for that reason.
"Three of us down here have scooters. I’m the second person to go overboard because of a scooter.
"But there have been some other close calls."