A CANOEIST who died after becoming stranded in the Firth of Forth may have capsized and been unable to right himself in freezing waters, it emerged today.
Rescuers found Michael Tattersall, 29, unconscious and suffering hypothermia half a mile from Gypsy Brae at around 1am on Monday – eight hours after he set off with three friends on a canoeing and swimming expedition.
Two of Mr Tattersall’s companions managed to make it to shore unaided and another was rescued by an RNLI lifeboat while Mr Tattersall was picked up by an RAF helicopter following a three-hour search but was pronounced dead on arrival at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.
Today, it was announced that a portion of the collection taken at his funeral service will be donated to the RNLI.
Eyewitness Kyle Hamilton, 22, was first on the scene and raised the alarm after investigating cries of help from the Forth estuary. He said he found one of the party on the shoreline, who told how both canoes had overturned.
“I could hear someone shouting close by and saw someone walking towards me,” he said.
“I asked if he could hear people shouting in the water and he said: ‘Yeah I was just in there for about five hours’. He told the emergency services that both canoes had upturned.”
Mr Hamilton said the police had grown concerned about the fate of Mr Tattersall when they discovered he was the only person unaccounted for.
“The police must have known that Michael was in a lot of trouble because he wasn’t shouting and they couldn’t figure out where he was.”
Mr Hamilton described how police managed to rescue one man close to shore within minutes of arriving before locating another through his shouts.
“They were asking a lot of questions about Mike – asking if he was in a kayak or not,” he said. “When the police arrived there was one man on the shore and only two voices coming from the water.
“The fourth one, they didn’t know where he was. I think he was probably drifting in and out of conscious, although he could have been further out to sea and shouting but you couldn’t hear him. Maybe Mike couldn’t right the canoe.”
Rescuers spoke of finding a paddle in the sea before spotting Mr Tattersall’s empty canoe. Moments later the RAF Boulmer helicopter pinpointed him in the water.
Mr Hamilton, whose flat overlooks the Firth of Forth, rushed to his car to check out the shouts he heard. But he regrets not calling the emergency services immediately.
“We quite often hear shouting from other flats or whatever but this was a strange shouting – like it could be someone in trouble,” he said. “I regret not phoning 999 at first but you think ‘Is this going to turn out to be kids messing about and I’m going to waste their time?’
“It’s a stroke of luck that I went to see but unfortunately we didn’t hear it soon enough to get Mike out safely. It’s a horrible thing.”
A message on Mike Tattersall’s Facebook page said his funeral will take place on Friday, October 21, at Warriston Crematorium in Leith at noon.