North Sea Search For Source Of Mayday Distress Call

Lifeboats News Release

A MAYDAY distress call prompted a search involving Tynemouth RNLI lifeboat and a Coastguard Rescue Helicopter late on Wednesday night.

Tynemouth RNLI lifeboat arrives back at Tynemouth lifeboat station after a search for the source of a Mayday distress call


Tynemouth RNLI lifeboat arrives back at Tynemouth lifeboat station after a search for the source of a Mayday distress call
A weak radio distress call with the spoken-word 'Mayday' was received by UK Coastguard's Humber Operations Centre shortly before 9pm. The person making the distress call indicated that they were on board a vessel five miles out at sea from the Tyne piers and that a person on board may have been ill. Attempts by UK Coastguard to contact the caller again were unsuccessful and a broadcast to all vessels in the area led to no further information being received.

Tynemouth RNLI all weather lifeboat was requested to launch to search for the possible vessel in distress and with a volunteer crew of six, sped to its reported position.

Finding no trace of any vessel when they arrived in the area the mayday call was thought to have come from, the lifeboat crew lit the lifeboat's searchlights and, coordinated by UK Coastguard, commenced searching the area of sea that covered where the wind and tide would carry a drifting vessel, which was a box shaped area extending five nautical miles out to sea from the Tyne piers down to Sunderland.

Shore-based teams from Tynemouth and South Shields Volunteer Life Brigades also made a search of the coastline for any sign of a boat in difficulty or possible launching sites.

As the search progressed with nothing found, at 10.20pm a Coastguard rescue helicopter from Humberside airport was also tasked to join the lifeboat and arrived on scene at 11:12pm.

The search continued until 00:23am on Thursday at which point UK Coastguard were satisfied that the search had exhausted any possibility of anyone having been in difficulty in the area.

Adrian Don, spokesman for Tynemouth RNLI, said: 'Our volunteer crew members launched into a bitterly cold night with a very rough sea and blustery winds at just after 9pm to search for the source of the distress call.

'The lifeboat and helicopter crews made a comprehensive search lasting for over three hours and covering nearly forty square nautical miles but found no trace of any vessel or person in difficulty despite relatively good visibility and the helicopter's infrared camera.

'UK Coastguard concluded that all possible efforts to locate the mayday caller had been made and the search was terminated, with our volunteers returning to dry land at 1.10am after refuelling the lifeboat and making her ready for service again.

'If anyone in the area has any information about the mayday call, please call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.'


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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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