A profoundly deaf woman saved the lives of two stricken sailors after she heard their desperate cries for help – thanks to new HEARING AIDS she had fitted the day before.
Christine Bowden, 77, was in her coastal garden when she heard one of the men calling about half a mile out to sea.
She alerted her husband Marcus and they grabbed their binoculars and spotted an upturned dingy in the distance – but no sign of any occupants.
But the shouts continued so they raised the alarm and the RNLI scrambled two lifeboats.
Emergency services found one man in a life jacket desperately trying to swim back to shore and a second clinging to the hull of the upturned 10ft boat without a life jacket.
The first of the two was suffering from hypothermia and close to exhaustion when he was hauled from the water.
The second was also rescued and their boat was righted and towed back to the shore at Looe, Cornwall.
The lifeboat crew told Christine the men – two middle-aged holidaymakers – probably owed their lives to her and her two new hearing aids.
Christine, a retired secretary, said: “They were very lucky as I had just got my hearing aids.
“I only picked them up on Friday morning and this all happened on Saturday afternoon.
“I was virtually deaf before and had them for less than 24 hours. If it had happened the day before I may not have heard them – and who knows what would have happened.”
The drama happened on Saturday afternoon as Christine was outside her house which is around 500m from the water’s edge.
She added: “I was out in the garden when I heard one of them scream for help.
“My property is on the hill that looks down to the beach and I just heard this voice shouting for help. It was persistent.
“My husband Marcus and I got the binoculars out and saw the upturned dingy. We couldn’t see any bodies but still heard this man calling for help.
“We phoned 999 and got through to the coastguards and the RNLI sent the boats out.”
Husband Marcus, 68, a retired marine engineer, said: “I keep telling her to get hearing aids. Thankfully she finally listened to me.”
The lifeboat crew said one of the men was found clinging to his boat and suffering hypothermia and would not have held on much longer.
The second collapsed when he finally got to shore.
Dave Haines, Operations Manager of Looe lifeboats praised the couple’s actions.
He said: “This was a good shout and probably a life saved as the person not wearing the lifejacket said he couldn’t have held on for much longer.
“He was also suffering from hypothermia.”
The RNLI said the dinghy had capsized off Plaidy beach, East Looe.
A spokesman said: “After a brief search the stricken craft was found.
“One person who was wearing a lifejacket was picked up by a speedboat as he was swimming to the shore.
“The other male was found clinging to the upturned dinghy not wearing a lifejacket as it was inside the dinghy
“He was taken aboard the lifeboat and returned to the lifeboat station where coastguards were waiting.
“Whilst being helped ashore the person collapsed on the quayside and an ambulance was called.
“He was treated by a local doctor until the ambulance arrived.”
Christine, who was tendering to her vegetable patch at the time, said she was the ONLY one to hear the cries for help – despite several others being a lot closer to the scene on the beach and the cliff path.
She said: “I was the only one that heard them. The coastguard confirmed this when they said no-one else reported it.
“There must have been several people on the beach and on the cliff path that would have been a lot closer than me.
“I could not understand why, on a Saturday afternoon, there had been no other response at all.
“My husband thought I was going mad. But then he got the binoculars so could see for himself.”
Marcus said he was also out in the garden but didn’t hear a thing.
He said: “I would say I have got pretty good hearing and don’t need to use a hearing aid. But I didn’t hear the screams at all.
“I thought Christine’s new aids were playing tricks on her and she was just panicking.
“I thought she had gone a bit nuts but then we went for the binoculars to check it out and I could see the upturned dinghy.”
Marcus, who spent most of his career as a marine engineer at sea, said the combination of factors that enabled the noise to travel as far as it did could have included the wind blowing in the right direction and the surrounding acoustics.
He said: “Noise travels on water a lot further as there is nothing to absorb it. There was a south westerly wind blowing in our direction and then it would have hit the cliffs which could have amplified the noise further.
“It is amazing how far sound can travel. I think I have pretty good hearing but my wife, now with her hearing aids, has her sound amplified even more.”