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Whitstable Lifeboat search hampered by laser pen light

Lifeboats News Release

A search and rescue operation by the Whitstable Lifeboat was hampered after a laser pen was shone at the lifeboat from the shore as the crew conducted a search for an overdue kayaker last seen off Hampton Pier, Herne Bay on Saturday evening.

Whitstable lifeboat after its return from Saturday nights operation. Picture: RNLI Whitstable.

RNLI/Chris Davey

Whitstable lifeboat after its return from Saturday nights operation. Picture: RNLI Whitstable.
Lifeboat helmsman Dave Parry said “We launched at 8.38pm and were a 3/4-mile offshore between Swalecliffe and Hampton when we were targeted by a blinding green light which hampered our search effectiveness. We suspect that this was a deliberate act as the individual involved would have seen the lights of the lifeboat”.

“Fortunately we we able to continue the search investigating various radar contacts and located the casualty, a 26-year old male, paddling towards the shore a 1/2-mile north of old Herne Bay pier head”. “

“He and his craft were brought onboard the lifeboat and taken back to Hampton. The lifeboat approached the shore as deep as water would allow before relaunching his craft to make his way ashore where the Herne Bay Coastguard Unit and family members were waiting”.

Whitstable Lifeboat Operations Manager Mike Judge said “The lifeboat had been tasked to search for the kayaker in the dark up to 2-miles offshore and the search was hampered by an individual directing a laser pen light towards the crews field of vision. To shine a laser light into anyone's eyes is a dangerous thing, but to shine such a light onto a crew at sea in the dark is not only dangerous for the crew, but also to the person for whom they are searching and this was a totally irresponsible act”.

“The lifeboat crewmembers of Dave Parry, Andy Williams, Tim Smith and Liam Sidders were not harmed by the incident”.

Notes to editors:

Whitstable RNLI Lifeboat Station was established in 1963 by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and is one of 237 lifeboat stations around the shores of the UK and Ireland. The volunteer crews provide a maritime search and rescue service for the Kent coast. They cover the area between the Kingsferry Bridge on the Swale, in the west, around the south-eastern side of Sheppey and along the coast through Whitstable and Herne Bay to Reculver in the east and outwards into the Thames Estuary.

The station is equipped with an Atlantic 85 lifeboat named Lewisco, purchased through a bequest of a Mrs Lewis of London who passed away in 2006.

She is what is known as a rigid inflatable inshore lifeboat, the boat’s rigid hull being topped by an inflatable sponson. She carries a crew of four people.

RNLI media contacts

  • Chris Davey, Volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer, Whitstable Lifeboat Station.
    07741 012004/

  • Tim Ash, RNLI Public Relations Manager (London/East/South East)
    0207 6207426 / 07785 296252 /

  • Paul Dunt RNLI Press Officer London/southeast/east Tel: 0207 6207416 Mob: (07786)

For enquiries outside normal business hours, contact the RNLI duty press officer on 01202 336789

Whitstable lifeboat after its return from Saturday nights operation. Picture: RNLI Whitstable.

RNLI/Chris Davey

Whitstable lifeboat after its return from Saturday nights operation. Picture: RNLI Whitstable.

Key facts about the RNLI

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is the charity that saves lives at sea. Our volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service in the United Kingdom and Ireland from 238 lifeboat stations, including four along the River Thames and inland lifeboat stations at Loch Ness, Lough Derg, Enniskillen, Carrybridge and Lough Ree. Additionally the RNLI has more than 1,000 lifeguards on over 240 beaches around the UK and operates a specialist flood rescue team, which can respond anywhere across the UK and Ireland when inland flooding puts lives at risk.

The RNLI relies on public donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. As a charity it is separate from, but works alongside, government-controlled and funded coastguard services. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824 our lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved at least 140,000 lives. Volunteers make up 95% of the charity, including 4,600 volunteer lifeboat crew members and 3,000 volunteer shore crew. Additionally, tens of thousands of other dedicated volunteers raise funds and awareness, give safety advice, and help in our museums, shops and offices.

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The RNLI is a charity registered in England and Wales (209603) and Scotland (SC037736). Charity number 20003326 in the Republic of Ireland