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A record rescue in West Kirby

West Kirby volunteers embark on a marathon mission to rescue 27 people.

West Kirby's D class lifeboat, Seahorse

Photo: Martin Fish

The crew of West Kirby in their D class lifeboat, Seahorse

Mike Warburton, Helm at West Kirby, was sat in his van outside the lifeboat station one afternoon in February. He was waiting to see if the wind would pick up enough so he could go kitesurfing.

In the distance, he spotted a group of people walking to Little Eye, a nearby island which can be reached on foot at low tide.

’There was a big spring tide that day, which comes in faster than usual,’ remembers Mike. ‘I put two and two together and called the lifeboat operations manager to let him know there could be a shout on.’

Mike went straight to the station to prepare the lifeboat, and, sure enough, the Coastguard sent a launch request. Someone on the island had called 999. The tide had left several people stranded.

11 wet walkers

Within 10 minutes of being paged, the lifeboat crew were on their way to Little Eye Island at full speed in their D class lifeboat Seahorse. When they arrived, they found 11 people, wet and cold, with some verging on hypothermia.

‘It was a nice, warm day with a clear sky, so most people were wearing light clothing,’ says Mike. ‘But the islands are quite exposed and wind chill kicked in.’

The crew took seven of the stranded casualties, four adults and three children, to shore. The Coastguard was waiting, and rushed the casualties to West Kirby Lifeboat Station, where they were warmed up, dried off and assessed by paramedics.

Two kayaker call out

‘Just as we were returning for the remaining people on Little Eye, we got a call to search for two sea kayakers,’ recalls Mike. Onlookers had reported them as distressed near Middle Eye Island. This took priority as the kayakers could have been in peril in the water.

Thankfully, the crew soon found the kayakers near the Middle Eye slipway, safe and well. So the volunteers powered to Little Eye to rescue the four cold, wet people still stranded. 

The crew helped the rest of the walkers into the lifeboat. ‘There was a southerly wind that day,’ recalls Mike. ‘And the trip back was into the surf – so getting back to the mainland was rough!’

West Kirby crew with their lifeboat, Seahorse

Photo: RNLI/Nigel Millard

More wet walkers and two damp dogs

Thinking their rescue mission was over, the crew headed back to the station. But they got yet another call from the Coastguard. It didn’t take the volunteer crew long to reach Hilbre Island, where more walkers were stranded by the tide.

They took five children and two adults back to shore before returning to the island for the final group, which included two rather damp dogs.

Finally, the lifeboat crew returned to Sandy Lane slipway. It had been a busy afternoon for our volunteers, rescuing 27 people and 2 dogs. ‘A back and forth ferry trip!’ laughs Mike.

This marathon service resulted in a station record for the number of people rescued in one day. And, thanks to the crew’s swift intervention, the stranded walkers were all unharmed, free to enjoy the rest of their weekends.

West Kirby crew rescuing dog

Photo: David Edwards

Your support

Your donations, big and small, help fund the kit our crews rely on. Mike says: ‘Without the lifejackets and survival blankets for our casualties, the people we rescued would have been in a much worse state. And of course, we couldn’t have done it without our lifeboat, which was donated by an incredibly generous supporter who left it in her Will.’

Any gift you could leave to our lifesavers is greatly appreciated. Find out more about remembering us in your Will.

Don’t get caught out

Helm Mike’s number one tip? ‘Prepare yourself. It seems nice and warm in the shelter of the mainland, but as soon as you get a mile out into the estuary, it gets cold.’

We hope you enjoy exploring the beautiful spots around our coastlines – but please make sure you stay safe.

If you’re planning a coastal walk, always:

  • take warm, waterproof clothing
  • bring a mobile phone
  • check the tide times
  • carry food and water
  • tell someone when you’re due back.