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Appledore RNLI save six lives in one day

Lifeboats News Release

On Thursday 31 May the crew of Appledore RNLI had a day which put all their hard work volunteering, exercising and training to good use, saving six lives in two separate emergency shouts within a few hours of each other.

The first incident happened at 1.10pm, when a former crew member phoned the station to say he could see a group of people who appeared to be in difficulty in the water, being swept away from the beach on the River Torridge to where it joins the River Taw at Instow. The station Coxswain and Mechanic immediately rushed to a nearby view point and confirmed three young girls on body boards were in difficulty, trying to make way against a two knot ebbing tide, and were already parallel with the lifeboat relief mooring, being swept towards the estuary mouth.

Having just completed routine maintenance on the all-weather boat, the boarding boat was still on the slipway. The pagers were immediately set off and within a minute or so the boarding boat was launched to save the girls. It was by chance whilst the girls were being rescued that the crew spotted the father in the water, also in severe difficulty, having swum out to try and save the girls. As the crew were on their way to the father, other members of the public called 999 to report that the father was in trouble in the water. He was also picked up by the lifeboat and all four were returned safe and well, though a little shaken, to Instow beach.

Later the same afternoon at 6.15pm, a call came in from Falmouth Coastguard requesting the launch of the inshore lifeboat to assist two people cut off by the rising tide west of Seafield House at Westward Ho! Once the crew arrived at the cliffs and located two teenagers trying to shelter in a small cave, they realised this was not going to be a straightforward rescue. Even though it was a lovely day, there was considerable swell making it difficult to get into shore between the rocks. The crew therefore requested the help of the larger all-weather boat, as this has a smaller inflatable boat housed within it which is often used for this type of rocky shoreline rescue. The air sea rescue helicopter had also been scrambled but was some distance away.

However, time was running out for these teenagers as the tide was rising rapidly. The crew of the inshore lifeboat decided their best option was not to wait for the arrival of the all-weather boat or helicopter, but to get as near to the rocks as was safe, put out the anchor, and cautiously veer down towards the casualties using the anchor to prevent themselves being pushed onto the rocks.

A volunteer crew member then entered the water and swam with a safety line to take one casualty at time back to the lifeboat. Once both casualties were safely recovered they were then transferred to the all-weather boat and checked over. Both boats then returned to the lifeboat station where the casualties were warmed up, and paramedics checked them over before being released to one of the parents. They were uninjured apart from being cold and wet. The message which came into the lifeboat station later reads: ‘I just want to say a huge thank you for assisting my son and his girlfriend earlier this evening. I honestly cannot thank you enough’.

Martin Cox, Appledore RNLI Coxswain says: ‘The tides around this part of the coast and within the estuary are particularly strong with a large rise and fall. Please take care. If any member of the public sees any person in distress in or around the water, please phone 999 and ask for the Coastguard’.

In a message to the crew Tony Merrill, Appledore Lifeboat Operations Manager, says: 'I would like to take the opportunity to thank all those who were involved in the shouts over the last few days. Due to the commitment and dedication of all those involved, six members of the public will be walking away from the incidents with no more than a bad memory and will be able to get on with the rest of their lives. To me, that is the very essence of what we are about and why you as a crew put so much time and commitment into the station and the service we provide.'

RNLI/Niki Tait

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 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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