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Sunday, May 29, 2022

Couple Locked in lighthouse visitor attraction for more than six hours after staff went home

Barry and Vera Singh from Whickham spent six hours locked inside St Marys lighthouse close to Whitley Bay when doors were closed on the visitor attraction without a final guest check.

The grandparents had climbed to the top in order to capture imagery of the amazing scenery surrounding the famous landmark at three o’clock on an early February Sunday afternoon. But when they came back down the stairs an hour later, they discovered the doors had been locked and staff had left for the day.

Barry takes up the story: “When we came down everything was closed up and we were left in the lighthouse.”

“My wife was really panicking and saying, ‘how are we going to get out?’

“Eventually, I found a fire exit and opened it and ran out to the front, but when we looked at the causeway the water was starting to come in quite high.

“Thankfully, I had left the fire exit door open, and we were able to get back inside and get warm.

“We managed to put some lights on and found a heater, but the alarms were going off, so my wife suggested we ring the police to say that we had been left in the lighthouse.”

Once the tide had come in the couple, who are popular in the Blaydon area for running B & V Stores were truly stranded. Vera, 55, said she had called a number she found online for the lighthouse three times at around 4.17pm without any answer before deciding to call the police.

They suggested they could get a helicopter to come out. But not wanting to utilise a vital service and all it entails they said they would wait until the tide went back down.

Six hours after becoming trapped the Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade arrived to help them both to safety at around 10.00pm.

Vera added: “It’s still unbelievable what happened.

“We still can’t believe it. We are safe and well, but it could have been a different story if we hadn’t been able to get back inside.

“It could have been a very panicky situation for children, anybody elderly, or anybody who has panic attacks.

“When I went outside it was dark, all I could hear was the wind and the water was right up.”

They did manage to grab snacks and hot drinks from inside the lighthouse, even leaving a note and money to pay for everything. Vera has since been in touch with North Tyneside Council suggesting an emergency phone be installed both inside and outside the building.

St. Marys Lighthouse close to Whitley Bay. Image: facebook

Northumbria Police confirmed they received a call from the couple and said they “gave suitable advice to them and also contacted the Coastguard on their behalf.”

A Maritime and Coastguard Agency spokesman said: “We logged this incident shortly before 7pm on Sunday February 6.

“Following that, we sent Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade to a report of two people cut off by the tide at St Mary’s Lighthouse.

“The team assisted in walking the two people safely across the causeway, once the tide had gone out at around 10pm.”

North Tyneside Council said that it would be carrying out an investigation into the incident but confirmed it was the first time anything like this had happened at St Mary’s Lighthouse in more than three decades as a visitor attraction.

A council spokesman said: “The volunteer life brigade alerted us to a couple who were stranded on the island.

“We have since spoken with the couple to offer our apologies for any distress this may have caused.

Vera explained: “We want to thank the police and Coastguard for their help and getting us safely back to shore.

“Thanks also to the police for calling and checking up on us which helped us to stay calm.”


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