Tourists spark Holy Island causeway emergency

Tourists in Northumberland sparked a major search and rescue opertation after attempting to drive across the flooded causeway at Holy Island

Seahouses RNLI Seahouses RNLI at the scene on Holy Island causeway where a Mini car was abandoned
Seahouses RNLI at the scene on Holy Island causeway where a Mini car was abandoned

A major search and rescue operation was launched after tourists abandoned their car when it got stranded on a flooded causeway.

The visitors attempted to drive across the causeway at Holy Island in Northumberland when it was under several feet of water.

They then left their Mini Cooper, wading past the crossing’s refuge box back to the island.

Two coastguard teams, a lifeboat and a search and rescue helicopter were all involved in a hunt for the owners after the empty vehicle was spotted. The hapless tourists, from Oxford, were eventually found in a hotel on the island.

Their actions on Wednesday were condemned by a lifeboat spokesman, who said it was the second major search in the county this week. The emergency services were notified at 3.25pm, more than two hours after the last safe crossing time of 1.15pm and just under half an hour before high tide at 3.50pm.

Their rescue attempt ended when the water level was up to the bonnet of the vehicle.

The incident was reported to the emergency services twice, with both callers believing the stricken vehicle was occupied.

This was thought to be the case as its lights had come on, and people watching took this as a sign of occupants signalling for help.

Seahouses RNLI The Mini car filled with sea water on Holy Island causeway
The Mini car filled with sea water on Holy Island causeway
 

It is now thought to have been caused by salt water getting into the engine.

Coastguard teams from Holy Island and Berwick were deployed to search for the occupants along with Seahouses RNLI and a search and rescue helicopter from RAF Boulmer.

However, they were discovered by island coastguard officers in Lindisfarne’s Ship Hotel, where they were given appropriate advice.

Ian Clayton, lifeboat operations manager at Seahouses RNLI, last night said the tourists’ vehicle would be a write-off.

And he added they might find their insurance company will not pay as their actions constituted negligence.

Permanent signs at either end of the causeway warn drivers not to cross outside of the safe times and the incident was the RNLI’s first such callout this year, although island coastguards have attended a number already in 2013.

Mr Clayton said: “The signs must be working for the majority of people. There will always be one or two who refuse to heed them. They think they know better.”

The spokesman likened the incident to that earlier this week in which a major search was conducted after an empty dinghy was reported, only for its occupant to be already on shore.

“This is another example of people’s time being wasted by someone not passing the right information on.

“If they had done that, it would have saved a lot of trouble. It would have saved our boat going up there and the helicopter being launched.”

There will always be one or two who refuse to heed them. They think they know better

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