Drama at Weymouth tower as 14 are winched to safety

    The Jurassic Skyline Tower in Weymouth
    The Jurassic Skyline Tower in Weymouth

    FOURTEEN people had to be winched to safety from Weymouth’s Jurassic Skyline Tower after they became trapped yesterday afternoon (Tuesday).

    Thirteen visitors, including an 11-week-old baby and a member of staff, were rescued from the 53m-high (174ft) viewing tower by coastguard helicopter.

    The rescue operation began after fire crews were called at about 4:15pm and ascended the tower.

    A spokesperson for Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Technical rescue crews from Weymouth and Poole, plus the aerial ladder platform from Westbourne and a supporting crew from Dorchester, attended the scene and firefighters ascended the tower to provide support and reassurance to the 13 members of the public – including an 11 week old baby – and one member of staff within the gondola.

    “Working with colleagues from Dorset Police, the local authority, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the attraction’s operators, the Service explored a number of rescue options, but most were discounted on the grounds of safety due to the inclement weather.

    “At approximately 7.30pm, the Coastguard helicopter started to winch those trapped to safety. ”

    The helicopter refuelled in Bournemouth at 9pm, before returning to winch those who remained in the tower to safety.

    The rescue was completed at about 10:10pm and the helicopter was flown back to its base at Lee-on-Solent.

    UK Coastguard helicopter Captain Simon Tye said: “This was an unusual job and aspects of it were challenging. What made it achievable was the way that everyone was prepared for it.

    “We had excellent communications with the National Maritime Operations Centre and the Commander of Dorset Fire & Rescue Service which fully prepared us for what we were flying to and how we were going to achieve the mission.

    “The Coastguard teams and Dorset Police had prepared us a landing site and once we landed on scene we liaised with rescue teams and prepared a plan for the safest way to carry out the rescue. We were really the last chance of getting them to the ground.

    “The tower is an odd shape with an overhang so we worked out that we needed to hover at around 180ft at a close distance of 5ft from the top the tower to carry out the rescue safely.

    “Everyone was incredibly brave waiting their turn to be rescued but the first to go up was the baby and mum with the Winchman.

    “We carried the baby in a special child rescue valise which is basically a large carry cot modified for winching and then we winched up the toddler and took all three down to the ground.

    “To ensure we had maximum performance from the aircraft we took the remaining casualties to the ground in groups of two. This meant we landed six times and refuelled during the middle of the operation.

    “After we had refuelled it had turned dark but by this time we were well practiced with the operation.”

    The operator of the tower, which gives 360-degree views of the coastline, Jurassic Skyline, said on Facebook the problem was down to “technical difficulties”.