First shout for Newquay’s third generation
On 26 August 2015, at around 6.30pm, Shaunna and her boyfriend Mike were heading to Shaunna’s grandparents’ for a curry when their RNLI pagers started to beep. Turning around and heading for the station, they knew that Shaunna’s gran would now be on her own until after the rescue – Shaunna’s grandad is also part of Newquay’s lifesaving team.
For Shaunna’s gran, this was nothing out of the ordinary. Geoff Brown, Shaunna’s grandad, has been at the station for over 16 years. Shaunna’s uncle Christian is a Senior Helm. Her boyfriend Mike Martin is also Senior Helm. Mike’s father is the Deputy Launching Authority and Tractor Driver. And Shaunna’s gran is the station’s Events Officer and Education Presenter.
She's pictured above with fellow Crew Member Tim - to whom she is not related, but who also features in Saving Lives at Sea!
The wait begins
As early as Shaunna can remember, she was interested in her granddad’s pager and she would always rush to the harbour to watch the launch and recovery of the lifeboat. At 16, desperate to be involved, she joined the shore crew and – as soon as she turned 17 – began training to get onto the crew.
After she qualified, she had a long, frustrating wait to get out on her first shout. That changed on 26 August:
‘I’d been in my suit and ready to launch lots of times before, but more experienced crew had always been taken. When this shout came in, I wasn’t sure whether I’d be going out or not. But then Mike, who is also the Helm, told me that I was going out and I instantly had that rush of adrenalin and was ready to go.’
When they got to the station, they rushed into their suits, jumped into the Valerie Wilson¸ Newquay’s D class lifeboat, and headed out to sea. A 999 call had reported that a group of people were caught in a rip current in the sea at Porth.
‘As soon as we heard that there were a number of people caught in a rip current, I began to get a bit nervous. Well, very, very nervous! But I got my head down and powered through it, focusing my attention on looking for hands or faces sticking out of the water. It wasn’t an easy job – we were having to battle through 2m waves.’
Eventually, Shaunna spotted the people in the water at the river mouth. The crew manoeuvred the lifeboat right alongside them. The casualties, a father and his two teenage children, had been bodyboarding on the north side of the beach when they got into trouble. They were able to get themselves free of the rip current and were wading to shore, but the daughter, Ebony, had been through serious difficulties and swallowed a lot of water. Noticing that she was unsteady on her feet and tired, Crew Member Ant Hills jumped out of the lifeboat and helped her back to the shore.
Ant checked for signs of secondary drowning before passing the family over to the Coastguard. Although they were shaken, shocked and very cold, the family were unharmed.
Learning on the job
Looking back, Shaunna says: ‘Throughout the whole rescue, I was buzzing on adrenalin. I was nervous, but at the same time I knew I needed to focus and do my job. While Mike and Ant helped the girl back to shore, I held the boat in position and listened to the questions they were asking her. Some of the things they were saying, I’d never have thought to ask. Straight away, they were comforting her and keeping her warm, but also finding out all of the information they needed to make sure she was OK. Since then, I’ve always tried to ask the same questions in the same way to anybody we rescue. I learned a lot just from that first rescue.
‘When we got back to the station, I felt a massive sense of accomplishment, and a boosted sense of confidence and ability. I knew I could do everything from the training and practice exercises, but it was completely different to test that knowledge out in the heat of the moment. I’m really proud of how I did.
‘Now I’ve been out on several rescues, I’ve made it my mission to become the RNLI’s youngest female Helm. Every opportunity I get, I try and take control of the boat. Everybody at the station is great too. Because we’re all ambitious, they’re always looking for ways to help me achieve my goals and be the best crew member I can be.’
Once changed out of their kit, and with the lifeboat washed down, Shaunna, Mike and Tractor Driver Geoff returned home to eat the curry that Shaunna’s gran had kept warm.
Geoff says: ‘It was really good for Shaunna to get her first shout under her belt and finally put into reality the training that she has put a lot of effort into. The whole family are really proud of everything she has achieved for the RNLI.’
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