Tynemouth: Over the edge

Last summer, Tynemouth lifeboat crew were quick to react when they heard a car had fallen off a cliff with one person and possibly a child inside.

Tynemouth RNLI's lifeboat Little Susie to the rescue

Photo: RNLI/Adrian Don

The crew of Little Susie race to the rescue

As the crew of three on the inshore lifeboat approached the bottom of the cliff, they saw that the car was almost submerged, with the front and back bent and twisted. Helm Mark Taylor (an artist when he’s not volunteering) held the boat in a good position and new Crew Member James Waters (a civil servant) entered the water with experienced Crew Member Ian Black (a retired firefighter). 

‘We could see the driver slumped inside the crashed car,’ says James. ‘He was up to his chin in water. His ear was badly lacerated and he was in complete shock. I had to ask him several times if there was anyone else in the car. I kept thinking if he gives up, he’ll drown.’ 

‘We needed to get him out of there. Reaching in, I had to unpick his fingers from the steering wheel to move him. I felt around under the water for his legs, to swing them around. Meanwhile, Ian grabbed him through the passenger door and twisted him around as I pushed his legs.’ 

Together they hauled the injured man onboard the lifeboat, as the tide encroached on the wrecked car. As they checked him over, James remembers telling himself: ‘This is what I did in training, so I’ll go about it in the same way. We found he had a broken arm and some lacerations. We had to warm him up and I kept asking him to look at me. All I remember were his bright blue eyes staring up at me. Some people give up at this point so we tried to keep him alert and stop him from falling unconscious.’ 

RNLI Tynemouth Crew Members Mark Taylor, James Waters and Ian Black

Photo: RNLI/Adrian Don

RNLI Tynemouth Crew Members Mark Taylor, James Waters and Ian Black

The crew moved the casualty onto the all-weather lifeboat, to get him ashore quickly. On land they transferred the man into the care of North East Ambulance Service and onto Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle. 

James reflects: ‘This was a far cry from my routine 9 to 5 job. I’m immensely proud of what we did and the crew I was with.’

'It really came together'

‘The car had fallen 15–20m, rolled over and landed on its wheels. I was prepared for the worst,’ remembers Helm Mark Taylor. ‘Thankfully the man was alive and the report of a possible child turned out to be a deflated airbag. After we’d got the driver out, we did a full sweep of the area just to be sure. Ian and James stayed very calm throughout. Their first aid training and communication skills really came together on this rescue.’

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