Off-duty RNLI lifeguard and New Brighton lifeboat crew member rescues kitesurfer
Less than four hours after the RNLI lifeboat station’s open day on Sunday 30 June, off-duty volunteer Crew Member Lucy Shaw was in the water rescuing a kitesurfer in difficulty near Harrison Drive. She was aided by RNLI New Brighton lifeboat crew diverted from a 7.43pm call out.
After being stood down from a call out at Woodside minutes earlier, the RNLI lifeboat crew were almost immediately on their way to a kitesurfer in trouble at Harrison Drive.
On the scene, the RNLI volunteer crew found three people in the River Mersey – a kitesurfer, a member of the public, as well as off-duty RNLI Lifeguard and RNLI Lifeboat Crew Member Lucy Shaw.
Lucy and her sister Harriet were walking Lucy’s dog at Harrison Drive that evening, and during a stop at Derby Pool, Lucy spotted the kitesurfer in the water.
‘We were sitting on a bench throwing the ball for my dog when I saw that two kitesurfers had come to shore at Harrison Drive. I noticed a third one still in the water floating with the flooding tide.’ Lucy said. ‘That’s quite normal but this time something didn’t seem right – the kite was down for too long.'
Lucy jogged to the two kitesurfers who had safely arrived on shore to check that their companion was alright.
‘They didn’t seem certain enough to me and were talking about calling the Coastguard. But I knew our lifeboat was already on the water with the Woodside call out.'
Sprinting ahead, Lucy threw her mobile phone and coat to a family as she passed, shouting for them to call the Coastguard and ask for the RNLI New Brighton lifeboat, before launching herself into the water.
‘Instinct kicked in and I knew I needed to get to the man,’ she said. ‘It took two or three minutes to get to him as he was out past the sea wall points. And he was tangled in the lines of his kite. At that moment another man swam up behind me – who may have been the kitesurfer’s instructor – and we both managed to get the line off the kitesurfer.'
Lucy tried to keep both men together but spying the RNLI New Brighton four-wheel-drive’s orange lights along the promenade, knew the lifeboat was not far away.
‘And then it appeared. It was great to see the orange lifeboat and the lads,’ Lucy said. 'Our lifeboat crew rescued the second man who had entered the water and was holding onto the kitesurfing board, while I brought the kitesurfer in.’
Once on the beach, RNLI New Brighton shore crew ensured both rescued men were given casualty care, ahead of being checked by North West Ambulance paramedics.
After around 15 minutes in the water and cold, Lucy was also casualty care checked by her RNLI shore crew colleagues before heading to the lifeboat station to dry off and get warm.
Still coming to terms with the rescue and her role in it, Lucy said: ‘It hasn’t yet hit home that the kitesurfer might not have survived if I hadn’t seen him and sensed something was wrong. I went through the casualty care procedure when I reached him and he was exhausted.
‘But all my RNLI training kicked in. Although I’m a lifeguard I didn’t have a rescue board or tube with me, but my water polo background also helped.'
Praising both the quality of RNLI training and her fellow crew, Lucy continued: ‘Between the lifeboat crew, particularly Helm Jay [Hennessey] and me, the communication was quick and efficient. We both understood each other instinctively, which is the result of our professional-level training and teamwork. And I’m so relieved that both men are fine.
‘I felt for my sister Harriet though. I just took off, abandoning her and my dog. We were reunited back at the boathouse though.'
Long-standing RNLI lifeguard and just eight months as RNLI New Brighton lifeboat crew, Lucy was on the lifeboat for her first call out only five days earlier.
RNLI New Brighton Lifeboat Operations Manager Ian Thornton added: ‘We’re all so immensely proud of Lucy. Although with us less than a year, her dedication to learning the skills needed as crew for our lifesaving charity combined with her RNLI lifeguard training make her a huge asset to New Brighton Lifeboat Station. Although not at all surprised by her selfless actions on Sunday, it’s simply tremendous, especially as they’ve come so quickly after her very first call out with us.’
To help kitesurfers stay safe while enjoying the activity on Wirral beaches, Ian said: ‘Kitesurfers often rely on people on shore to raise the alarm if they’re in difficulty. Getting tangled in kite lines, as well as being so far from shore are risks. We always advise that kitesurfers carry a means of calling for or signalling for help should they go out alone, or in the event they become separated from those they head out with.’
First tasked by UK Coastguard to two people in the water at Woodside, the volunteer lifeboat crew were stood down at 8pm once Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service had safely delivered the casualties to Pier Head.
Following the second call out to the kitesurfer with Lucy at Harrison Drive, RNLI lifeboat Charles Dibdin and volunteer crew were back at the boathouse by 9pm.
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, in a normal year, 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.