A ROWING crew inadvertently caused a full scale emergency alert when they capsized in full view of concerned spectators.
The crew of five, rowing on the River Wear in Durham City, got an unwanted soaking when their boat overturned beneath Elvet Bridge in Durham City Centre.
Dozens of spectators looked on from the bridge and riverbanks, and one concerned onlooker contacted the emergency services fearing that the crew was in danger of drowning.
Within minutes two fire engines, ambulance crews and police had dashed to the bridge – only for the boat to right itself and for the crew to row back upstream.
Durham Fire and Rescue Service spokesman Steve Wharton described the incident as “a false alarm with good intent”.
He said: “We had mobilised the Water Rescue Team which was on its way from Bishop Auckland, but we turned back again when we realised the crew was in no danger.
“It was perhaps unfortunate that they had capsized in the middle of Durham when dozens of people were looking on, but the people who dialled the emergency services did so with the best of intentions.
“We would certainly not criticise them for that, they genuinely believed the crew were in danger and we are grateful that they called us, but fortunately we did not have to rescue anybody on this occasion.”
Mike Hughes, from the Durham Amateur Rowing Club, said the crew of four plus a coxswain were trained to deal with their boat capsizing.
He said: “It is something we train them to do, to recover from a capsized boat. On this occasion it was not a training manoeuvre, the boat had capsized, but it was in shallow water and they weren’t in any danger. After they righted the boat, they rowed back to the boathouse and we gave them a warm drink.”
Eyewitness James Taylor, 59, from Carrville, Durham, said: “For a time it did look as if the crew may have been in some difficulty. Everybody started looking when the emergency services came speeding along to the bridge.
“But the water didn’t look deep and when they righted their boat they rowed back upstream with nothing but their pride injured, fortunately.”