RESCUERS rushing to the aid of a kayaker who died after an accident in the Forth were hampered by a locked gate at Granton Harbour, it has emerged.
Emergency services sped to help Michael Tattersall after he got into difficulty offshore but had to wait until firefighters arrived to cut open the gates shortly after 10.40pm on Sunday.
As details of the tragedy unfolded, rescuers spoke of finding the 29-year-old’s paddle floating in the estuary before discovering his body.
A spokeswoman for the fire service confirmed crews were called to Gypsy Brae to “cut a padlock on a gate to get access to docks” because no key could be found. However, the search took more than two hours and it is not known if the short delay in getting access to the docks had any serious impact.
RNLI lifeboat crews were deployed around 10.30pm and arrived off Granton Harbour to find police search teams already scanning the water with spotlights.
The RNLI said its Kinghorn crew spotted a paddle in the sea and the RAF Boulmer helicopter soon spotted the kayak. Around 15 minutes later they found Mr Tattersall, an outdoor instructor, in the water.
He was winched up and flown to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary but was pronounced dead on arrival. It is though he suffered hypothermia.
Mr Tattersall had been out on the water with three friends. Two of them managed to swim to the shore, while another kayaker was rescued by 11pm.
Today, family and friends of Mr Tattersall, who lived in Granton and worked for adventure tour operator Inside Out Scotland, were coming to terms with his death.
His heartbroken girlfriend, Mo Airnes, wrote on Facebook: “Mike was involved in an accident last night and has sadly passed away.
“We will update you with details when we are able to and thank everyone for their support and love during this very difficult time.”
Sarah Jane Gonzalez-Romero, his former flatmate from Essex University, where he studied maths, said of her friend, nicknamed Moby: “He was a wonderful guy with a big heart and we had many fun times together. I can’t imagine the pain you are all going through right now but my heart and thoughts are with you. RIP our lovely Moby!”
Another friend, Stephanie Lear, added: “I am so sorry to hear that news Mo. I worked with Mike through the Mitchemp Trust – he was such a great guy and so good with the kids.”
RNLI crew member Neil Chalmers told the News: “This was a distressing incident which involved a big search.”
Although some details of the incident have emerged, the RNLI and Forth Coastguard said it is still unclear as to why Mr Tattersall and his friends had been out on the Forth in the dark. One theory is that the group may have been conducting night-time exercises or that the swimmers had been training for a triathlon with the kayakers there to navigate.
Forth Coastguard watch officer Simon Ward said: “This is a timely reminder that as well as wearing buoyancy aids, canoeists should carry hand-held VHF, flares and a charged mobile phone.”