Car plunges into Welwyn Garden City lake

PUBLISHED: 14:51 21 January 2019 | UPDATED: 16:27 21 January 2019

Herts Boat Rescue, which is run by volunteers, winching the car out of the south lake at Stanborough. Picture: Valerie Newton

Herts Boat Rescue, which is run by volunteers, winching the car out of the south lake at Stanborough. Picture: Valerie Newton

Valerie Newton

A Harpenden woman has expressed her gratitude to a Herts-wide rescue charity after her car slid into a lake in Welwyn Garden City.

Herts Boat Rescue worked for at least an hour in icy water to pull Valerie's car out of the lake at Stanborough. Picture: Valerie NewtonHerts Boat Rescue worked for at least an hour in icy water to pull Valerie's car out of the lake at Stanborough. Picture: Valerie Newton

On Saturday, January 19, Valerie Newton from Harpenden was at Stanborough Lakes to watch the boat races.

A keen photographer, she was having a break from taking pictures of the race when, she said, people started shouting “there’s a car in the lake!”

“I grabbed my camera and ran to the slipway to take advantage of the photo opportunity,” she said. “Then I saw it was MY car and I can only say the shock was indescribable.”

Thankfully, nobody was in the silver Ford Fiesta when it rolled into the south lake from the bank, and nobody was hurt.

Valerie with Herts Boat Rescue after her car rolled into Stanborough Lakes. Picture: supplied by Valerie NewtonValerie with Herts Boat Rescue after her car rolled into Stanborough Lakes. Picture: supplied by Valerie Newton

It is unknown how it happened, but the car managed to travel down the slipway, avoiding the barrier fencing in the process and ended up almost totally submerged.

An operations manager at GLL, who is a volunteer at Herts Boat Rescue, leapt to Valerie’s aid.

He put out a call immediately to the volunteer-run charity that provides flood rescue and other water safety services to the county.

“Team members dropped what they were doing on Saturday afternoon in places as far away as Stevenage and Baldock, and rushed to help,” said Valerie.

Herts Boat Rescue worked for over an hour to pull a car out of Stanborough Lakes. Picture: Valerie NewtonHerts Boat Rescue worked for over an hour to pull a car out of Stanborough Lakes. Picture: Valerie Newton

Police were contacted, but when they saw that no lives were at risk they allowed the highly-trained Herts Boat Rescue team to take over the operation.

The team members waded right into the icy water to fix the ropes and winch the car out of the lake using a specialised water rescue vehicle, in a process that took about an hour.

One diner, who had a view of the scene from Terranova restaurant at the time, said: “It’s the first time I have ever come across anything like this.

“It was the talk of the restaurant.”

Herts Boat Rescue, which is run by volunteers, winching the car out of the south lake at Stanborough. Picture: Valerie NewtonHerts Boat Rescue, which is run by volunteers, winching the car out of the south lake at Stanborough. Picture: Valerie Newton

At one point, an observer noticed that a fish had even managed to swim inside the vehicle.

“So my car had actually caught a fish,” said Valerie.

In the meantime, Valerie was looked after kindly by GLL’s general manager, who offered her tea, biscuits and moral support while Valerie contacted the AA and her insurance company.

“I’ve gone through every emotion it’s possible to have,” added Valerie.

Valerie with Herts Boat Rescue after her car rolled into Stanborough Lakes. Picture: supplied by Valerie NewtonValerie with Herts Boat Rescue after her car rolled into Stanborough Lakes. Picture: supplied by Valerie Newton

Now she wants to make sure that Herts Boat Rescue get the recognition they deserve.

According to chair Stuart Foreman, the charity costs between £5,000 and £10,000 per year to run and is trained to offer nationwide flood rescue.

“Who knew that Hertfordshire had such a wonderful team of volunteers?” asked Valerie.

“I hardly know where to begin to express my gratitude to this voluntary, non-profit making charity.

The car almost entirely submerged at Stanborough south lake. Picture: Janice DarlingThe car almost entirely submerged at Stanborough south lake. Picture: Janice Darling

“I will always be grateful for their kind, caring and practical support.

“They are a great bunch of guys and I would love more people to know about their vital flood rescue and water safety work.”

Herts Boat Rescue did not charge Valerie a penny for their service on Saturday, but she and her husband plan to make a donation.

Find out more about Herts Boat Rescue at: www.hertsboatrescue.org.uk

The car almost entirely submerged at Stanborough south lake. Picture: Janice DarlingThe car almost entirely submerged at Stanborough south lake. Picture: Janice Darling

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