A COMMUNITY is in shock after a father died trying to save his teenage daughter after a boating accident.
Geoff Wilkinson, 52, frantically fought to save his 17-year-old daughter, Victoria, when their dinghy capsized during a race and she became entangled in the rigging. Despite being pulled to safety by a rescue boat, at Kielder Reservoir in Northumberland, and attempts to revive him, the father-of-three died later in hospital.
Victoria, who lives in Kirkwhelpington, Northumberland, remains in hospital fighting for her life. The pair were taking part in a race organised by Kielder Water Sailing Club on Europe’s largest man-made lake, when tragedy struck. It is thought their Laser Stratos dinghy toppled over after it was hit by a gust of wind.
Mr Wilkinson’s wife Catherine, who is a GP in Scots Gap, Northumberland, was too devastated to talk yesterday.
Neighbours from their village spoke of their shock and sadness after hearing about the accident.
A pensioner, who didn’t want to be named, said her thoughts were with the family. The 63-year-old woman said: “It is absolutely terrible that this has happened.
“I don’t know them really well but we do have friendly chats every now and again. I’m sure that everyone will be very sad to hear about it as they are a lovely family.
“They must be in great shock and unable to believe it. I hope their daughter pulls through.”
Two helicopters from the Great North Air Ambulance were sent to the reservoir, just after 3pm on Sunday, and crews found both of them lying seriously ill on a jetty.
Jane Peacock, a senior air ambulance paramedic, said: “Victoria got into difficulties underneath the boat, her dad was thrown free but went in to find her. He found her but was unable to get her free.
“We believe both had been underwater for about five to 10 minutes.”
Steve Gibbon, commodore of the club, which has never before had a fatality in its 28-year history, said all the members were very sad to hear of the tragedy. He said: “The dinghy capsized and inverted. It would appear that the girl got tangled in the rigging.
“When the boat became inverted her father then went to rescue her and got into difficulties himself. The club’s rescue team attended and they were brought back to shore where two teams gave CPR until the paramedics and air ambulance arrived.
“The club is in complete shock. It is a family-orientated club with more than 160 members, most of which are families. The prayers and hopes of all the members are with Geoff’s family.
“The club, the Marine Accident Investigation Branch and the Royal Yachting Association are working closely to fully investigate the accident.”
Mr Wilkinson’s dinghy overturned shortly after the two-mile race began at the club’s base at Tower Knowe.
They were airlifted to Newcastle General Hospital but Mr Wilkinson was pronounced dead on arrival there and his daughter was taken to intensive care.
David Hall, head of corporate affairs for Northumbria Water, which runs the reservoir, said: “This is a tragic accident and our deepest sympathy is with the family.
“All clubs that operate on Kielder Water operate to the Kielder Water rules and in addition, club’s have their own rules and regulations, and follow the Royal Yachting Association Guidelines. A full investigation is being carried out into this accident.”