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From day trip to danger: The story behind three dramatic rescues

This summer thousands of visitors will head to the coast to enjoy a much-needed dose of sun, sea and sand. 

Among them will be a mix of locals and day trippers, novice and seasoned open-water swimmers, boat owners, water-sports enthusiasts, families with small children, and groups of friends.

Having fun will be the order of the day – after all, what's not to love about a stroll along the beach, a splash in the sea, and a warming portion of fish and chips? 

But as the beaches fill up this summer, RNLI lifesavers will be at their busiest. With more people drawn to the water, more people will get into danger. It could be you, or someone you love. 

Here are three stories of people who never imagined they’d get into trouble by the water:

Family cut off by the tide at Lyme Regis

Harry, Beverley, Chris and Susie recovering at the lifeboat station

Photo: Lyme Regis RNLI

Harry, Beverley, Chris and Susie recovering at the lifeboat station

For Geologist Chris, a celebratory walk to mark his sister Susie's birthday turned into a nightmare.

A regular visitor to Lyme Regis over the years, Chris, who was accompanied by wife Beverley, son Harry and family dog Billie, couldn't have anticipated that a misunderstanding over tide times could lead to the party, which also included Susie's dog Finzi, being stranded in rising water.

Taking a familiar 8-mile path along the Undercliff at Monmouth Beach, the family were initially greeted by good weather. 

But by 2pm, the wind began picking up from the south-west and the sea become quite rough. The family found themselves having to splash through waves to dodge huge rocks and fallen trees at Pinhay Bay. 

The terrain proved too hard going for 6-year-old Beagle Billie, leading to Chris and his family deciding move part of the walk inland. But being sprightlier, Spaniel Finzi and her owner Susie managed to press on ahead.

Looking back now, Chris says: 'All the way along, we were losing time, taking photographs, and we weren’t fully aware of what was happening with the tide. That was the last turning point.'

Looping back to walk along the foreshore at Pinhay Warren at around 4pm, Chris and his family were faced with big waves ahead, smashing right up against the cliffs. There were also waves back along the route they had just come from. 

'We thought we’d be able to wade along the beach because the tide would be heading out soon, but we were wrong,' Chris continued. Harry checked and discovered that they had another 2 hours of incoming tide before the sea was fully in, and the waves were already far too big for them to risk trying to walk any further along the beach. An attempt would soon mean chest-deep water.

Chris's family quickly climbed up on a robust, hard band of rock in the cliff edge that allowed them to get a metre or so above the beach as it quickly disappeared.

Chris then called Susie, who was facing an even more dangerous situation. One of her legs had sunk deep into the mud as she attempted to jump and swerve a wave. Managing to ease her leg out and move to a small flat rock for safety, she dialled 999 for the coastguard.

'I was really fearful for my sister,' explains Chris. 'We could see her torch in the dark, but she was on her own and I was very worried that the mud slide she was on might be swept away.'

Both parties were now in communication with the coastguard and were told the RNLI lifeboats couldn't reach them because of the swell. Though a land party had also been deployed to help with the rescue, the decision was made to call in a helicopter, which travelled in from Falmouth.

The Sikorsky S-92 search and rescue helicopter

Photo: Lyme Regis RNLI

The Sikorsky S-92 search and rescue helicopter

Susie was winched to safety first. Then the helicopter returned to rescue the rest of the party.

'As soon as we saw the winchman, we knew we’d be OK,' says Chris.

Landing on Monmouth Beach, the party was soon whisked away to Lyme Regis Lifeboat Station, where the volunteers warmed them up with hot drinks and blankets and monitored the group to make sure they were OK.

'They were incredibly kind; they even hosed down our very muddy dogs and fed them with a donation of food from the Cobb Arms!' Chris adds. ‘We are so thankful to all of the teams who risked their lives to help us, and how skilful, professional, and really kind they were to us.’

A dogwalker’s lucky escape at Lough Swilly

Aoife and her Golden Retriever/Poodle mix Boris, who found themselves stranded at the beach

Photo: Aoife Corcoran  

Aoife and her Golden Retriever/Poodle mix Boris, who found themselves stranded at the beach

Aoife Corcoran and her dog Boris had a close call when a casual evening stroll in Fahan, County Donegal, quickly turned dangerous.

When the pair arrived for their walk, the beach was quiet. With no one else on the sand, Aoife felt this was an opportune moment to let Boris off the lead for a run around.

Around 15 minutes into their walk, they came across a small stream that was flowing into the ocean, which Boris jumped over in chase of a seagull. Aoife followed, and within seconds realised that she and her beloved pet were in real danger.

'I noticed that the stream was getting wider and deeper. Somehow Boris ended up on a small bit of land, I was on another, and we were separated by the water. Panic started setting in and I rang my daddy, screaming,' Aoife says. 'He left from our home in Derry and told me to ring the Coast Guard.'

Within minutes, the Lough Swilly RNLI crew arrived on scene. Volunteer Helm Eamonn Mahon explains: 'We couldn’t get to Aoife as the crow flies – we had to navigate the channels, making sure that we didn’t beach our lifeboat. It was a race against time, and when we reached Aoife, she was chest-deep in water. She was on the phone to her dad but when she saw us, she dropped the phone and screamed – I dread to think what he must’ve thought!

'We got Aoife and her dog into the lifeboat. When we got her back to her dad, he was crying too, but thankfully, with relief.'

Aoife and Boris escaped with a few cuts and bruises and are now doing fine.

'The work that these people do is incredible, and it is all voluntary,' says Aoife. 'Me and my family will be forever grateful for what they’ve done, and I encourage anyone to donate to them, no matter how big or small.'

Three trapped in the mud at Harwich

Earlier this year, Harwich RNLI volunteers came to the assistance of two adults and a child stuck in mud, waist-deep in water on a rising tide, close to Orwell Country Park, Ipswich.

Following a page from the UK Coastguard at 5:12pm, Harwich’s Atlantic inshore lifeboat Tierney, Harvey and Sonny Reid was launched, alongside the all-weather lifeboat The Duke of Kent, just in case it was needed.

They arrived 35 minutes later. Although the light was fading fast, high water wasn't due until 8:43pm, giving the crew enough time to complete the rescue.

Helm Claire Angove describes the rescue as ‘really straightforward’, with the inshore lifeboat able to glide easily down the mud and no equipment needing to be deployed.

The crew at Harwich RNLI power to the rescue

Photo: RNLI/Jon Bliss

The crew at Harwich RNLI power to the rescue

When the crew arrived, they saw the group was split in two, with the child around a metre away from the adults. And while the adults had managed to grab a tow line thrown out by a fire fighter standing on the shoreline, they were too bogged down in the mud to be pulled out.

The RNLI crew managed to pull the trio onboard, with the youngest member of the group going first. An RNLI volunteer assessed the group as they powered to Orwell Yacht Club, chosen because it's pontoon provided easy access for the lifeboat.  The relieved group were handed into the care of the Coastguard and paramedics from the East of England Ambulance Service.

'No one expects to get into trouble at the shoreline, but things can quickly change,' says Claire. 'And with the risk of hypothermia from being in the water, and potentially worsening weather conditions, it's important to call for help as soon as possible and not wait to see whether the situation escalates.'

Will you answer our call for help?

Being an RNLI volunteer is an unpredictable job. But what we can predict is that people will get into trouble around the water this summer and RNLI crews will be there to guide them back to safety.

But it takes lifeboats, training, kit, and fuel to get our crews ready to rescue. That’s why we’re asking you to answer our call for help this May.  

Will you take part in Mayday Mile and help RNLI volunteers, like Eamonn and Claire, get ready to save lives this summer? You can run, walk or even dance your way to raising vital, lifesaving funds. 

Sign up for the Mayday Mile today and help keep families safe this summer

Mayday Mile