Survivor of jet ski tragedy becomes RNLI fundraiser

Lifeboats News Release

On 18th April 2003 Blackpool RNLI volunteers saved the life of Debbie Hales. Debbie and her husband, Ian, had been enjoying a day at the beach with their children when the jet ski they were riding collided with North Pier.

Tragically Ian died in the accident but Debbie survived and 13 years later she is a staunch supporter of Blackpool lifeboat station and an RNLI fundraiser.

On Good Friday, 18th April 2003, Debbie Hales, her husband Ian and three of their children were enjoying a day at the beach in Blackpool. They decided to make the most of the good weather by taking to the water on their jet ski. They had all completed the relevant training and were wearing buoyancy aids. Sadly at approximately 3pm the jet ski collided with North Pier with Debbie and her husband Ian on board. One of Blackpool’s RNLI D class lifeboats launched, found both casualties and the volunteer lifeboat crew started emergency first aid. Sadly despite their best efforts and those of the Ambulance Service Ian died a short time later. Fortunately Debbie responded to treatment and made a full recovery from her injuries.

Thirteen years after the tragic accident happened, Debbie still visits Blackpool RNLI lifeboat station regularly to thank the volunteer lifeboat crew for their efforts that day and in the past year she has raised over £1000 for Blackpool lifeboat station by taking part in the RNLI H2Only Challenge and by hosting an RNLI Fish Supper. Debbie has also joined Blackpool’s team of dedicated RNLI fundraising volunteers.

Debbie said, ‘Without Blackpool’s RNLI volunteers and NHS staff like Sister Jean Mewes at Blackpool Victoria Hospital I would not be here today. The RNLI relies totally on charitable donations from each and every one of us. If you’re ever unsure which organisation to support please support the RNLI as you never know when you may need them. What started as a beautiful day out on Good Friday 2003 ended in tragedy when I lost my childhood sweetheart, my best friend, my special husband Ian.

I cannot thank everyone enough for the love, care and support shown to my family and I on the day of the accident and in the weeks, months and years since it happened. Accidents can happen to anyone even when you’ve completed the training and prepared properly so please be mindful of that when you head to the beach and always Respect the Water.’

Colin Lowe, RNLI volunteer lifeboat helmsman said, ‘Debbie’s rescue is one that has stayed with me over the years and it’s great that she keeps in touch with us so regularly. Blackpool RNLI lifeboat station is manned entirely by volunteers and we all dedicate a lot of time and effort to training and call outs. Catching up with Debbie and survivors like her really does make it all worthwhile. Debbie now dedicates a huge amount of time, effort and generosity to fundraising on our behalf and that’s extraordinary.

We don’t expect anything from casualties; we’re just there to help them whenever and wherever they need us, it’s amazing that Debbie has turned such a terrible ordeal into something positive, she’s helping us to save lives at sea every day and we’re all really grateful to her.’

RNLI media contacts

For more information please contact Esther Lowe Volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer, RNLI Blackpool on 01253 508603 or 07917091948. Alternatively please contact Alison Levett, RNLI Public Relations Manager, North, on 07786 668912.

Photo of Debbie Hales


Debbie Hales, survivor of jet ski accident in Blackpool in 2003

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.

Learn more about the RNLI

For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or or by email.