Hero gets thanks

Harry May

Harry May

A FAMILY has thanked those who heroically tried to save their daughter after a tragic accident at Lyme Regis.

An inquest into the death of Clair Perkins, 20, found that she drowned on October 7 last year after her wheelchair rolled over the edge of Victoria Pier at the Cobb in Lyme Regis.

In a statement, the Perkins family said they wanted to thank everyone who had tried to save Clair, who suffered from Niemann-Picka debilitating neurological disease.

They said: “Our beautiful daughter was taken from us in an accident.

“We would like to thank Harry May the fisherman who continued to put his life in jeopardy, the dedicated members of the emergency services, RNLI and the staff at Dorchester County Hospital – they all tried in vain to bring Clair back to us.

“We will always be in their debt for what they did on that horrible day.”
Clair, from Solihull, had been on holiday with her parents, Mark and Paula, who were standing ‘within arm’s reach’ when the tragic accident happened.

Mr Perkins told the inquest: “We were standing on the pier talking when we heard a noise, Paula turned around to ask if Clair was OK and Clair wasn’t there.

“She was gone in a split second, we were standing within arms’ reach when it happened.”

“Harry May, a Lyme Regis fisherman, jumped in and was swimming up and down trying to get her but he couldn’t find her.”

Mr May, who was commended for his heroic actions, said: “I dived down with a rope a couple of times and found the chair, it was a real weight.

“I took hold of the cover and started coming up but then all of a sudden it came away in my hand.” RNLI crew and members of the coastguard were also unsuccessful in rescuing Clair, the inquest was told.

Nigel Lang, a paramedic with South West Air Ambulance Service, was also praised for his bravery.

He said: “When we got to the scene nothing was being done to rescue Clair.

“They said it was a recovery not a rescue.”

Mr Lang insisted on diving in himself, eventually bringing Clair up in her chair with the help of the RNLI, the inquest was told.

West Dorset Coroner Michael Johnston said: “In respect to the courage shown by Mr May and Mr Lang, I can only say I salute you.”

Clair was taken by helicopter to Dorset County Hospital where she died the same day. Mr Johnston recorded the cause of death as drowning as a result of an accident.

He said the most likely explanation as to how the electric wheelchair rolled into the water was that Clair had moved around and caught the joystick.

Mr Johnston told Mr and Mrs Perkins: “I am terribly, terribly sorry for you and your family and friends.

“No-one can be prepared for one of their children dying before them.”

SPEAKING after the inquest, fisherman Harry May said: “It was quite a thing meeting the family again so long after the incident.

“I’m glad I was there for the inquest. Having it all cleared up has drawn a line under the whole thing.

“This will never, ever happen again where a whole wheelchair goes into the sea.

“It’s a complete one-off. I think the inquest has given a sense of closure to the family because they all came down together.

“It was very, very tragic and I think it has made a kind of bond between me and Clair’s family.”

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