North West RNLI volunteers facing the Perfect Storm

Lifeboats News Release

Last year, RNLI volunteers from Silloth to West Kirby experienced their busiest festive period* since records began. There were eight lifeboat launches between the 11 stations from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day, seven people assisted, and one life saved.

RNLI/Danielle Rush

Ben, Evie and Lola wish the crew at Hoylake a safe and peaceful Christmas

As the festive season approaches, the RNLI in the north west is issuing its own call for help. The charity is facing a Perfect Storm, with more people drowning and a shortfall in funds, meaning support from the public is more vital than ever.

RNLI volunteers in Cumbria, Lancashire and Merseyside are ready to down their pagers whatever day of the year. Christmas Day 1999 is a day forever etched on the minds of the RNLI crew at Hoylake and New Brighton.

In the early hours of Christmas morning 1999, both crews swapped turkey and tinsel for turbulent and confused seas with 10ft high waves. New Brighton’s Atlantic 75 lifeboat launched at its operating limits following reports of two men in the sea. Hoylake’s Mersey class lifeboat launched to offer assistance in the north-westerly gale.

Both crews spent many hours at sea in some of the worst conditions they had experienced. New Brighton Helmsman Mike Jones was awarded the RNLI's Thanks on Vellum for this service; other awards were made to the crew, helpers and honorary secretary. The RNLI's Chief Executive subsequently sent a Letter of Appreciation to former Hoylake Coxswain Geoff Ormrod and his crew in appreciation of their help and support.

The causes of callouts over the festive period have changed over the years. In the early 80s the most common reason for callouts was to commercial fishing vessels and powered craft. Since 2000, many of those needing help are often just visiting the coast and not out on vessels or watercraft. As well as slips, trips and falls, tidal cut offs are also a contributing factor to RNLI call outs.

Almost 20 years on from the memorable call out, RNLI crew across the north west will be on standby throughout the festivities and ready to launch in any weather at a moment’s notice should anyone need their help.

Current Hoylake RNLI Coxswain Andy Dodd says:

‘We don’t think anything of being on call at Christmas – it’s what we do and what we’re trained for. Christmas is just like any other day for me and our volunteer crew, if someone needs our help, it really doesn’t matter what day of the year it is.

‘But we couldn’t do what we do without the support of the public. The RNLI has experienced a shortfall in funds, but we are rescuing more people than ever before. We are facing the Perfect Storm and are calling on people to make a donation this Christmas to ensure we can continue saving lives at sea.’

Nobody is more grateful for their dedication than a family from Ellesmere Port who would be facing a very different Christmas this year had it not been for the RNLI.

Ben and Natalia Taylor are heading to Hoylake to pay their respects to the crews of Hoylake and New Brighton after the lives of their twin daughter’s Evie and Lola, 12, were dramatically saved earlier this year.

The Taylor family were holidaying on the north Kent coast when the twins were keen to try out their new inflatable unicorn. Swept along by the wind, the girls’ inflatable rapidly started heading out to sea.

Ben swam out to what he described were just ‘two dots’ in the distance heading further out to sea. Margate RNLI lifeboat was launched along with Ramsgate RNLI with RNLI lifeguards also joining the search. They picked up frantic dad Ben and thankfully discovered the girls had clung to a buoy and were safe and well after being picked up by a pleasure boat.

Ben says:

‘I cannot put into words the terror we experienced that day, it really put everything into perspective how precious life and family is. We’re already planning our Christmas this year and that really is thanks to the RNLI acting so quickly. It was the advice given just a couple of days before on the beach helped Lola and Evie about what to do if they got into trouble which helped to save their lives.

‘I can’t bear to think what kind of Christmas this year could have been for me and my family, but thankfully and luckily we’re still here and have lots of fantastic celebrations planned. I’m in total admiration of all the volunteers who came to help us that day, but also for these amazing crews right on our doorstep in the north west who are prepared to sacrifice their own Christmas to help total strangers at sea.

‘To think they do this voluntarily is just incomprehensible. Please donate whatever you can to support the Perfect Storm appeal and help the RNLI crew to continue saving lives.’

The RNLI’s Perfect Storm appeal has been launched in response to some major challenges the charity is facing. In 2018, the RNLI’s financial resources dropped by £28.6M, while its crews are busier than ever.

To support the RNLI’s Perfect Storm appeal this Christmas, helping to ensure the charity’s brave volunteers can continue saving lives at sea, please visit RNLI.org/ThePerfectStorm

*Festive periods calculated from 24 Dec – 1 Jan

Media Opportunity

There will be an opportunity to meet some of the Hoylake crew who attended the Christmas day call out and remain volunteers on station today. They are David Mackenzie, current all-weather lifeboat crew, Richard Martindale and Peter Nicholas, now both Deputy Launching Authorities and Dave Whiteley who is now the station’s Lifeboat Operations Manager. Also present will be New Brighton RNLI volunteer Mike Jones was awarded the RNLI's Thanks on Vellum for this service. Images will be available following the media opportunity.

Footage of RNLI lifeboats in rough weather is available on request.

Notes to editors

Please find attached a jpeg image of the Hoylake lifeboat in similar conditions to those experienced by the crew in 1999. Also attached is an image of the Taylor family celebrating Christmas thanks to the RNLI.

RNLI media contacts

For more information, please contact Danielle Rush, RNLI Media Relations Manager in Wales and the West on 07786 668829 or Eleri Roberts on 01745 585162. Alternatively, call the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789 or email pressoffice@rnli.org.uk.

RNLI/Danielle Rush

Ben, Evie and Lola wish the crew at Hoylake a safe and peaceful Christmas
Conditions during the 1999 rescue were similar to this

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.

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Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

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