Newhaven RNLI lifeboat launched to major cliff fall at Seaford Head

Lifeboats News Release

On Wednesday 21 June Newhaven RNLI’s Severn Class lifeboat David and Elizabeth Acland and her volunteer crew were launched at 4.55 pm to reports of a major cliff fall at Seaford Head

The lifeboat was launched to assist UK Coastguard and local fire brigade teams. There were initial concerns that a member of the public could have been on the cliff at the time of the fall. The whole coastal area was very busy with it being the hottest day of the year.

As the lifeboat made its way to the position the inflatable daughter Y- boat, a smaller craft stored aboard the all weather lifeboat - was made ready with two crew in dry suits. When the lifeboat was just off Seaford Head the Y-boat was immediately launched.

The Y-boat’s first task was to pick up some of the fire crew complete with their thermal imaging equipment, so they could look for signs of life within the huge mound of chalk and earth.

The UK Coastguard rescue helicopter searched from above as fire crews search from the waterline aided by the Y-boat.

A comprehensive search took place using thermal imaging equipment and nothing was found. Due to the incoming tide the Y-boat then took both the fire crews and coastguards back to Splash Point.

As the Y-boat exited Splash Point the eagle eyed lifeboat crew noticed a person in trouble in the water near some kayakers. Once alongside the kayak it was established that the woman had been unable to swim against the strong current created by the incoming tide. The kayaker had offered immediate assistance. The Y-boat crew then took the casualty on board and safely delivered her to waiting members of the UK Coastguard on the beach.

The lifeboat was stood down at 7.07pm and the Y-boat was recovered. Newhaven lifeboat was back alongside her berth at 7.35 pm.

Newhaven lifeboat Coxswain Paul Legendre issued some safety advice after the incident when he said: ‘We advise people to stay well away from both cliff edges and the base of cliffs, as these falls are a natural part of costal erosion. This incident shows that cliff falls do not just happen in bad weather, they can happen at any time without warning and pose a major risk to people both on top of cliffs or exploring the beach below.’

Notes to editors

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Newhaven RNLI has celebrated 214 years as a lifeboat station, being the oldest RNLI station in the UK. Newhaven operates an all-weather Seven Class lifeboat David and Elizabeth Acland.

RNLI media contacts

  • Alan Novis Newhaven RNLI Station Volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer 07916 272861,
  • Paul Legendre Newhaven RNLI Station Coxswain 01273 514143
  • Tim Ash, RNLI Public Relations Manager (London/East/South East) on 0207 6207426, 07785 296252
  • Paul Dunt, RNLI Public Relations (London/East/South East) on 0207 6207416, 07786 668825
  • For enquiries outside normal business hours, contact the RNLI duty press officer on 01202 336789
Newhaven RNLI volunteer crew assist fire brigade officers in inspecting the site of the cliff fall


Newhaven RNLI volunteer crew assist fire brigade officers in inspecting the site of the cliff fall

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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.

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