ELEVEN crew from Stroud Community Fire and Rescue Unit got the chance to hone their skills on a training exercise on the Gloucester-Sharpness Canal.

The Spirit of Freedom II canal boat from the Willow Trust was the centre of the operation, at Fretherne Bridge, in a simulated incident which involved the boat grounding and taking on water.

The Stroud crew, led by Watch Manager Paul Reynolds, joined forces with Gloucester and Tewkesbury Community Fire and Rescue Station Rescue Boat, offloading crew onto the Willow Trust life raft and helping them into shore. The rescue boat also carried out to a ‘man overboard’ rescue and a drill moving injured people off the canal boat.

Willow Trust skippers Dave Bence and John Wickens were joined by 25 volunteers on the annual training exercise. Every year the charity takes 7,000 disabled children and adults on day trips on their two boats.

Willow Trust Administrator Liz Rowland said: ‘Our training is updated every year and we are always very grateful to the Stroud and Gloucester Fire Services for their help: their participation really adds to the authenticity of the exercises.”

Paul Reynolds added: “We don’t often get this kind of event so the Willow Trust training exercises are a good opportunity for us too.”