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Scots man pulls pal for one mile down River Clyde after boat capsizes in freezing waters

Daily Record logo Daily Record 11/08/2022 Kaitlin Easton

A 60-year-old Scot pulled his friend one mile down the River Clyde after their boat capsized in the freezing waters. Hugh McGowan was fishing with his pal, 75, on July 14 when a piece of wood struck their 15ft vessel causing it to capsize.

The security guard from Port Glasgow said after a few minutes his friend began to struggle in the water and he decided to start swimming while pulling him along. Brave Hugh said the pair wouldn't have survived the terrifying incident if they hadn't been wearing lifejackets.

Hugh told the Record: "The two of us were out on the boat fishing, like we have been doing for 40 odd years.

"We never saw it but a large piece of wood hit the side of the boat and it capsized us. It was about two or three times bigger than the boat.

"We had two options, to swim towards Cardross or Port Glasgow. We would never have got across the main channel to Port Glasgow when the tide was in.

"After about 10 minutes my friend was running out of steam. I grabbed him and he was paddling with his feet while I pulled him and swam.

"I was swimming for about an hour, and started to struggle. My friend said to me 'you'll need to leave me and try to get help, I'll float'."

The lifejacket saved Hugh's life © Supplied The lifejacket saved Hugh's life

The pair swam for one mile in the freezing water between Port Glasgow and Cardross before Hugh was forced to leave his friend to try and get help.

He managed to climb from the shore to the railway and flag down a ScotRail train whose driver stopped to assist.

Hugh's friend was safely recovered from the water by a passer-by who used the app What3words to give the coastguard their exact location.

Hugh continued: "It was a hell of a frightening experience. If we didn't keep moving I thought we were going to drift out to sea. There were times when I felt like giving up but I thought to myself 'I'm not going to die today'.

"When I managed to get out of the water and climb up the rocks at the side of the railway, I felt like I was going to pass out a few times, but I knew I couldn't because my mate was still in the water and I needed to get help."

A rescue operation was launched and Hugh's friend was airlifted by Coastguard Rescue Helicopter 199 to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. He had swallowed a gallon of salt water and was drifting in and out of consciousness.

Hugh was checked over in hospital and released later that evening. His friend spent over one week in hospital recovering.

A coastguard rescue helicopter attended the incident © Greenock Coastguard Rescue Team A coastguard rescue helicopter attended the incident

Hugh says their lifejackets stopped them from dying in the water.

He said: "If we were not wearing a lifejacket, we would be dead.

"I had to stop around 15 to 20 times to catch my breath and the only thing keeping me afloat and not going under water was my lifejacket.

"When you go out on a boat - whether you're on a pond, a loch, or at sea - please wear a lifejacket because it will save your life."

Mark Ilderton, ScotRail Head of Drivers, said: “Who knows what the consequences could have been for the two men had our driver not stopped to assist.

“We are immensely proud that his swift actions helped in the rescue of these people from the River Clyde near Cardross, including taking one person to Cardross station where they were met by an ambulance.

“Nobody likes to be sitting in a delayed train but on this occasion, I am sure passengers will understand and applaud the driver for helping in the rescue of these two men.”

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