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Torbay and Exmouth RNLI lifeboats rescue six crew from stricken tug boat

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Image of Colin Bower

Colin Bower
Lifeboat Press Officer at Torbay.

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Lifeboats News Release

  • Date:
    14/01/2013
  • Author: Colin Bower

Volunteer crew members from Exmouth and Torbay lifeboat stations launched overnight to a tug that had been holed and was taking on water.

At around 9.30 pm on Sunday 13 January a major incident sparked off when the 70 metre tug Christos XXII was damaged by the boat it was towing.

The tug, which was towing the bare hull of the 80 metre Emstrom, slowed to investigate a problem with the tow. On slowing down, the Emstrom, hit the Tug leaving a 35cm gash in its hull.

RNLI all-weather lifeboats from both Exmouth and Torbay were launched to assist. On arrival just off Hopes Nose, Torquay, pumps from both lifeboats were put aboard, along with two crew members from the Torbay lifeboat.

Six of the 8 crew of the Christos, were taken off by the Torbay lifeboat and taken to Brixham. The Exmouth lifeboat stood by to monitor the situation.

John Heal, the Emergency Coxswain, went into the engine room to investigate the damage but, even with two pumps running, the Christos was still making water and in danger of sinking.

Additional pumps were transferred by the nearby warship Lancaster, but still the water level was rising.

Crew from Lancaster were then able to plug the leak by effecting a temporary repair using wooden wedges, reducing the ingress of water by some 60%.

Meanwhile the towed boat Emstrom had been cast adrift and was picked up later by the local tug MTS Vulcan.

The helicopter from RNAS Chivenor was also on scene and stood by at Walls Hill, Torquay in case it was needed.

With the crew safely off and on board the lifeboat, the focus then moved to saving the ship and reducing the pollution threat, from the 200 tons of diesel oil on board.

The Dutch salvage tug Brent arrived on scene at approximately 1.30am on Monday 14 equipped with more powerful pumps and managed to start reducing the water level within the ship. By daybreak, the Brent was confident that she could keep the Christos afloat to allow for underwater welders to apply a patch to the hull of the Christos.

Exmouth lifeboat picked up its equipment and returned to their station just before 4am.

The effort by all parties, not only to save the crew , but to prevent a major environmental disaster was a tremendous effort.  

Notes to Editors

For a copy of the video, please contact the RNLI press office on 01202 336789.

RNLI media contacts

For more information, please contact Isla Reynolds, RNLI Newsdesk and Public Relations Manager, on 01202 663127 or isla_reynolds@rnli.org uk. Alternatively, please contact the RNLI PRess Office on 01202 336789.

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Key facts about the RNLI

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is the charity that saves lives at sea. Our volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland from 236 lifeboat stations, including four along the River Thames and inland lifeboat stations at Loch Ness, Lough Derg, Enniskillen and Lough Ree. Additionally the RNLI has more than 1,000 lifeguards on over 180 beaches around the UK and operates a specialist flood rescue team, which can respond anywhere across the UK and Ireland when inland flooding puts lives at risk.

The RNLI relies on public donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. As a charity it is separate from, but works alongside, government-controlled and funded coastguard services. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824 our lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved at least 140,000 lives. Volunteers make up 95% of the charity, including 4,600 volunteer lifeboat crew members and 3,000 volunteer shore crew. Additionally, tens of thousands of other dedicated volunteers raise funds and awareness, give safety advice, and help in our museums, shops and offices.

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The RNLI is a charity registered in England and Wales (209603) and Scotland (SC037736). Charity number CHY 2678 in the Republic of Ireland