Barrow Lifeboat assists stricken ferry
The volunteer crew from the RNLI’s Barrow station launched their inshore lifeboat this afternoon to go to the aid of a small ferry that was disabled by a rope which had fouled its propeller.
The lifeboat crew were paged and at 1-05pm the inshore lifeboat Vision of Tamworth, crewed by Ben Jackson, Alan Cleasby and Andy Baxter, was launched from its Roa Island base. The ferry was visible from the station and the lifeboat was soon alongside the casualty.
At the time there was a moderate Force 4 breeze blowing from the east and the spring tide was expected to peak at 2.23pm with a height of 10.1 metres, consequently at the time the tide was very strong and running at a fast speed.
It was decided by the lifeboat crew to evacuate the passengers to the safety of nearby Piel Island, and this was carried out after each passenger was issued with a lifejacket from the ferry boat equipment.
Following the evacuation, the ferry boat crew, with assistance of the lifeboat crew, managed to cut free the anchor rope and the vessel was once again able to travel under its own power, and stand off Piel Island until the tide began to recede and the ferry pier could once again be used.
In the meantime, three adults were seen to attempt to walk across the wall from Foulney Island back to Roa Island causeway, whilst the tide was rushing over the wall from East Bay towards Rampside Sands. At the time the water had reached their thighs and one person was seen to stumble and fall fully into the water before regaining his footing.
The remainder of the lifeboat crew who were already at the station because of the ongoing incident with the ferryboat, were put on stand-by to launch Barrow’s all weather lifeboat Grace Dixon and the walkers were kept under observation from the station by the crew and Furness Coastguard team who had also been called to the scene. Within a short period of time the three walkers had successfully made their way back to the safety of the Roa Island causeway.
The inshore lifeboat returned to station and when she was ready for the next call the crew were stood down by 2-45pm.
John Falvey, Lifeboat Operations Manager at Barrow said,'We aren't sure how the ferryman managed to foul his propeller with his own anchor rope, but a large powerful spring tide like today's is always likely to be very unforgiving if you make a mistake. The passengers are all safe and well and there was no damage to the vessel so a good outcome.
'The outcome of the incident involving the walkers could have been disastrous. We keep trying to inform the public that to walk along the wall connecting Foulney to the Roa Island causeway is hazardous even when the wall is visible. When a powerful tide is running over it anyone could easily be swept away and wouldn't be able to swim against the tide. If they just remain on Foulney the tide will recede and they will be able to conclude their journey in safety. Of all the deaths which occurred at sea around the UK and Ireland in 2014 -15, which was over 400 people, 130 of them were walkers who never had any intention of entering the water. That is a shocking figure and we are trying to educate people to prevent it happening here.'
Key facts about the RNLI
The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.