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Walmer RNLI’s car wash fundraiser turns into a rescue mission

Lifeboats News Release

Crowds gathered to have their cars washed as part of Walmer lifeboat station’s Mayday fundraiser thought they were watching an exercise when RNLI volunteer crew suddenly downed their sponges and headed to the lifeboat.

Walmer's volunteer crew rescue the kayaker from his capsized craft.


Walmer's volunteer crew rescue the kayaker from his capsized craft.

But the shout, just after 1pm on Saturday (30 April) was a real one, as the UK Coastguard requested the volunteer crew to launch to help a kayaker in difficulty. Walmer’s relief Atlantic 85 lifeboat, which had been on display to the public on the beach, was launched immediately with helm Lee Waddon and fellow crew members Nicola Goodban and James Foster.

On reaching the casualty they found that he had been fishing from his kayak when it had overturned and he’d got a large fishing hook embedded in his finger and was suffering from the cold. The crew brought him to safety and gave him oxygen and warmed him up with blankets before handing him over to paramedics. He was then taken to hospital to have the hook removed. The kayaker visited the lifeboat station the following day to thank the crew for his rescue.

“No-one could believe it – it was an immediate launch to a person in the water,” said Walmer Lifeboat Operations Manager Denis Brophy. “It created a bit of a tailback at the car wash while we carried out the rescue, but people could really see what we do. It made them all appreciate what the car wash was for. It looked like we’d planned it, but we hadn’t!”

“A duty crew was on-hand to carry on with the carwash but the people who had gathered to have their cars washed actually thought that the call was possibly a training demonstration to illustrate just how important lifeboats are!” Denis added. “The crew assured them it wasn’t but the onlookers seemed really impressed to see a real call.”

In fact they were so impressed that the lifeboat station chalked up a fundraising record with £1312 being raised from washing 130 cars, the most that has been raised in the four years since the Walmer event began. Some people even popping £10 notes into the collection buckets, even though they weren’t actually having their cars washed!

The RNLI’s Mayday campaign runs throughout May and aims to raise £750,000 to fund lifesaving kit for the charity’s brave volunteer crews. A crew member’s yellow wellies cost £54 a pair, a lifejacket costs £458 and a safety helmet costs £263.

Media Contacts:

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

  • Paul Dunt, RNLI Press Officer (London/East/South East) on 0207 6207416, 07786 668825

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

    Walmer RNLI's charity car wash was interrupted by a rescue mission.

    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.

    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 or by email.


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