AN INJURED couple triggered a dramatic, three-hour rescue operation after getting stuck in the mud on Foulness – just yards from an area used to test live bombs.

Southend Coastguard was called out at 8.50pm last night by police and Qinetiq – operators of the Ministry of Defence weapons testing site – over fears a man and a woman were stuck as they faced an incoming tide.

This area of Foulness is restricted and out of bounds to the public with MOD warning signs but the casualties made their way onto the island and the man had fallen down a steep bank into the mud and was reported to be injured.

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A Coastguard spokesman said: “This was a difficult operation as the casualties had found themselves in areas where live ordnance is used, with a mix of mud, creeks and fast rising tides complicating the extraction.”

The Coastguard was hampered because its helicopter was already in use on the south coast, which prompted desperate calls to Southend RNLI because this was the only option available to rescue the couple.

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The spokesman said: “All attending emergency services and Ministry of Defence worked tirelessly to safely extract the casualties onto the hovercraft for transit back to the slipway adjacent to the Southend Coastguard station.

“One the way back to the Coastguard station, a serving paramedic who is also an RNLI crew member and on the hovercraft for this incident, was able to assess the casualty on their injuries.

“Southend Coastguard and Essex Police then relocated to receive the casualties at the Coastguard station where safety advice was given and Essex Police were able to take down their details for onward investigation.

“Southend Coastguard advised the ambulance was on its way to treat the male casualty but they didn't want to wait for the ambulance and they were stood down on route.

The incident which started at 8.50pm was completed at 1.12am, when all teams returned to based.