A 75-year-old man who was missing for almost 24 hours was rescued from West Norfolk marshes after being spotted by a police drone.
In the wake of the release of dramatic video footage of Brancaster man Peter Pugh stuck in a deep water-filled creek, his wife Felicity has praised everyone involved in the major search operation and hospital staff for saving her husband’s life.
Mrs Pugh said the family feared the worst when the search was called off around 2am last Sunday leaving her husband to face the night alone outdoors.
When the search resumed a few hours later, Mrs Pugh said she expected a call to say he had been found dead. She was amazed when officers from Norfolk police contacted her to say he had been spotted alive at around 2.35pm struggling to pull himself out of neck-high water in a creek at Titchwell,
“It was just remarkable. It was a miracle he was found alive,” said 73-year-old Mrs Pugh, who believed her husband’s fitness had also played a part in his survival.
Mr Pugh, who works full-time as an author and has a publishing business in London, is a keen cyclist and walks an hour-and-a-half each day.
A large-scale search operation involving around 50 people was launched after he went missing last Saturday around 5.10pm while walking along the beach from Brancaster.
Mrs Pugh said they had gone for a walk before dinner with other family members who had headed for home while Mr Pugh said he would walk to the seals.
They agreed to meet back home but the alarm was raised when Mr Pugh failed to return when expected.
Mrs Pugh said the co-ordinated rescue effort had been “terrific”.
“Until you encounter something like this when someone does something like my husband, you don’t realise how lucky we are,” she said.
Mr Pugh was airlifted to King’s Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital suffering from hypothermia. Mrs Pugh said he was “amazingly well” considering his ordeal. Doctors at the scene and at hospital treated him for hypothermia and she said he was “on the mend”.
She said her husband’s skin had been rubbed raw by the reeds.
“His arms and legs are really raw like meat. He had thrashed around in the reeds. His knees and legs are a mess. He was wearing shorts and his skin is going to take a long time to heal,” she said.
Teams from the emergency services, HM Coastguard, lifeboat crews including Hunstanton and the Norfolk Lowland and Search Service, scoured the coast in heavy rain in search of Mr Pugh, who was spotted by police drone operator Sergeant Danny Leach.
It took an hour-and-a-half to rescue Mr Pugh, who was winched to safety by a Coastguard helicopter crew.
Sergeant Alex Bucher, who helped co-ordinate the search, said it was a great example of multi-agency working at its best.
“There is no doubt without the police drone we would not have been able to locate him in the time we did.”
Norfolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner Lorne Green said it was a “fantastic example” of working together and officers having the “right tools for the job”.
“Now, almost a year since Norfolk police launched its initial drone trial, this is yet another remarkable achievement,” he said.