THESE are among the final photographs of tragic canoeist Michael Tattersall taken hours before rescuers found him floating unconscious in the Firth of Forth.
The 29-year-old was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital after being winched from the sea by an RAF helicopter following a three-hour search that ended shortly after 1am on Monday.
He was one of two canoeists believed to have been accompanying two swimmers taking part in triathlon training when the party was said to have been trapped by strong currents about half-a-mile off Gypsy Brae.
The photographs show Mr Tattersall, nicknamed Moby, smiling in a red jacket and woollen hat sitting in a canoe at the Granton shoreline at around 5.20pm on Sunday. It is thought the party may have made their way across to Cramond Island before venturing out into the sea.
The pictures were captured by Artemy Zamatay, a 19-year-old student at Edinburgh Napier University, who was making a time-lapse film of the island as part of his interactive media design course. He said: “I was with my camera taking shots every ten seconds. I thought ‘wow, these are professional guys that know what they are doing’. It was very windy that day and I was standing on the shore freezing. But the guys were chatting, laughing and joking. I thought everything was going to be OK with them. I was horrified when I heard one of them had died.”
Both swimmers in the party made it back to shore and the second canoeist was rescued by an RNLI crew at 11pm. Rescuers spoke of finding a paddle in the sea before spotting outdoors instructor Mr Tattersall’s empty canoe.
Moments later the RAF Boulmer helicopter pinpointed the stricken canoeist in the water and mounted a rescue. He was unconscious and thought to be suffering hypothermia.
But there is confusion over the timings of when the alarm was raised. Police say they were first alerted to the danger by a member of the public who reported hearing cries of distress coming from the water at 10.16pm.
However, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency say they were first informed at 10.35pm – nearly 20 minutes after the first warning call to police. RNLI crews at Queensferry, Kinghorn and Anstruther deployed lifeboats after being alerted by the Coastguard.
The RNLI’s Richard Smith said: “Our crews are ready at a moment’s notice 24/7 to launch to anyone in distress on the sea. In the vast majority of cases the RNLI receives information about an incident from the Coastguard and it’s vital that information is given to the Coastguard as soon as is practically possible.”
A police spokesman said: “Lothian and Borders Police received a call from a member of the public at 10.16pm after they heard the sound of persons in trouble. Officers attended at the Gypsy Brae harbour at 10.23pm to establish the full circumstances of the incident.
“The Coastguard were requested at 10.25pm after it became apparent the individuals were within the water and required a lifeboat.”