A happy ending after dramatic helicopter crash

Lyme Regis lifeboat crew carry Lisa Burgess, pregnant at the time, ashore following a dramatic helicopter crash in 1999. Photo by Richard Austin

SELDOM has there been such a fortunate couple as Phillip and Lisa Burgess, who had to control crash land their private helicopter into the sea in Lyme Bay on Easter Monday 1999.

The pair were flying across the bay when they were suddenly consumed by dense fog, finding themselves in the water and hanging on to the helicopter awaiting rescue.

Nothing could have been more frightening than being stranded clinging to the side of the half submerged helicopter, not knowing if they will be found before the cold water decided their fate. To heighten the story even more Mrs Burgess was pregnant at the time.

If there was any luck flying around that day, it came from local boatman Jonnie Walker who, using his professional knowledge of the sea state and where they may have drifted, found the pair in the nick of time.

The story became the number one press story of the day, all editors love a knife-edge story like this with a fantastic ending.

For me it was very nearly a huge balls-up. I had received a tip from someone in the rescue services that they had been found off Charmouth and would be brought ashore in the village. When I arrived I was quickly told that they were actually on their way to Lyme Regis, so I had to drive in thick fog and bank holiday traffic desperately trying to get to the Cobb before the lifeboat.

Screeching to a halt outside the Cobb Arms, I grabbed my camera and legged it down the slipway just as the RNLI team were bringing them ashore.

Although it was Jonny Walker who found them they had transferred from his boat into the lifeboat to get them back quicker, although it was the fog that slowed them down and enabled me to get there just in time.

The Daily Mail donated £10,000 to the RNLI and Mr and Mrs Burgess came back to Lyme to meet John Walker and the lifeboat team who between them had saved three lives on that dramatic day.

Mr and Mrs Burgess also returned to Lyme Regis again in 2017 with their now grown-up daughter, for the launch of a book on the history of the lifeboat crew by Richard Horobin, in which they feature.

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