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3 January 2011, 11:43
16 kayakers have been rescued after getting swept away by a strong current off the south coast.
It happened Sunday 2nd January around 4pm just off Portland Bill.
Two of the casualties, a man and woman, went into shock and showed signs of hypothermia.
They were winched off the boat by the Portland helicopter and flown to the Dorset County Hospital at Dorchester for treatment. Their condition is not life-threatening.
The other 14 were taken to Portland Marina where they were checked over by waiting ambulance paramedics.
The group were part of a canoeing club from Hamble, near Southampton, Hants, and had travelled to Portland for an afternoon of kayaking.
Bruce Lack, watch manager at Portland Coastguard, said the incident could easily have been fatal.
He said: "The group found themselves in serious difficulties as they entered the tidal Race at Portland Bill. It is very rough there and one of the party capsized in the sea.
"The group became separated into three groups, one of which had been swept into the Race itself.
"At 4pm they broadcast two Mayday signals on a VHF radio to report themselves in significant difficulties.
"That is what undoubtedly saved their lives because it was getting dark and there was nobody else around who would have seen them in trouble. They could easily have capsized and we would have been dealing with a fatal incident.
"The Portland helicopter arrived on the scene first and found the flotilla of canoes that had rafted into three tight groups which helped to contain the situation and prevented any further capsizes.
"The crew directed the inshore lifeboat to the three in most serious danger..
"As darkness descended, the two helicopters floodlit the scene while the all weather lifeboat rescued the others.
"The health of two of the rescued kayakers started to deteriorate, so they were airlifted to hospital."