Plea to drivers over causeway calamities

Lifeboat chiefs last night warned drivers they are continuing to risk their lives on a potentially deadly Northumberland causeway - despite repeated safety warnings.

Lifeboat chiefs last night warned drivers they are continuing to risk their lives on a potentially deadly Northumberland causeway - despite repeated safety warnings.

So far this year, more than 20 people have been plucked to safety from rapidly rising tides racing across the road connecting Holy Island to the mainland at Beal.

In 2005, a total of 16 people were rescued and 12 vehicles were flooded.

The two-mile stretch is left submerged beneath the waves twice a day, with specially-placed tide tables at each end of the causeway to alert and advise motorists.

Last week, RNLI volunteers from Seahouses were scrambled to save a family of five - including three children - from a Renault Laguna trapped by the incoming sea.

Each time it happens, the drama costs the local crew more than £1,200 in hard-earned funds, much of it raised within the local community.

And each time the cause is the same - motorists gambling with the tides, only to find their vehicles soon stalling under several feet of water.

A Seahouses lifeboat station spokesman said last night: "It's mind-boggling why people decide to take such risks, not only with their own lives, but also their loved ones. In some cases, drivers have attempted to cross when the road is actually underwater. You can't even see it.

"Just off to the side is deep, very cold water, and strong currents which have been known to pull cars off the causeway.

"Finding yourself in these kinds of conditions can have fatal consequences."

In June, lifeboatmen from the Seahouses crew were astonished to see a car setting out to cross the causeway - while they were in the middle of saving people from two swamped cars.

It also became waterlogged, and the passengers had to be rescued before the vehicle was swept off the causeway.

Just two days earlier four Australians were airlifted from a refuge box by the RAF Boulmer helicopter.

In April, a man and his wife, with their three daughters aged 14, 11 and five, from Scotland, had to abandon their car and climb into the refuge box.

County councillor for Norham and Islandshires, Dougie Watkin, added: "I don't know what else we can do - all the warning signs are there.

"Some people don't appreciate just how dangerous the causeway can be, and that they must respect time and tide.

"What we don't want to do, however, is to discourage people who genuinely find themselves in peril from contacting the emergency services."

Full tide time listings are prominently posted at each end of the Holy Island causeway.

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