Families together for Christmas thank the RNLI for saving their loved ones

Lifeboats News Release

The families of casualties who were rescued by the RNLI in the south west say they are lucky to be able to celebrate Christmas together thanks to the charity’s lifesavers.

They have joined forces to urge the south west to support the RNLI’s Christmas appeal, as the charity reveals it has lost millions in income after fundraising activities had to be cancelled due to the pandemic.

Ben Williamson was rescued by the St Agnes RNLI lifeboat crew in August this year after he was swept out to sea in a strong rip current.

Ben and his family, who are from Manchester, were enjoying a long holiday in Perranporth, Cornwall. One evening they went to the beach for a BBQ to watch the sunset. Ben went in the water for a bodyboard while his wife Hannah and three children stayed on the beach, playing in the shallow water.

Hannah says;

‘I noticed Ben wasn’t catching many waves and that he had drifted slightly. I just assumed he was going further in to try and catch better waves and I thought nothing of it at first.

‘Megan then alerted me to the fact that daddy had drifted even further and she couldn’t really see him. She said ‘Mummy I can’t see Daddy!!’, I explained he was going in deeper to catch more waves. I think I was in denial at first until she screamed at me ‘Mummy! Daddy’s disappeared!’ I looked up and Ben had been swept out around 20-30 metres in a matter of seconds, very quickly I couldn’t even see him. It then hit me that he was in serious trouble and I immediately went in to panic mode.

‘Two surfers, who turned out to be the bravest and most selfless boys I have ever met, immediately ran in to the sea and swam over to Ben. I have no idea how they found him as the sea was very choppy but they reached him and stayed with him, giving him reassurance that help was on its way.

‘People on the beach helped me contact the Coastguard and the helicopter arrived after about 15 minutes. The RNLI lifeboat then came flying around the corner and at that point I knew everyone was going to be safe. The helicopter spotted Ben and the two surfers and guided the crew to their position. They picked them up and brought them back to the beach.

‘I have never felt real fear before but what I felt during those few minutes was stomach churning fear. I thought I’d lost him, I didn’t think he was coming back. He’s safe and he’s here all thanks to the RNLI.

‘The RNLI were simply amazing, they are true heroes. They were totally non-judgmental, and their professionalism and dedication are just unbelievable. We will be forever in their debt. They saved our family that night.’

Ben added;

‘When I realised I wasn’t going to be able to get back, I started thinking all sorts of things, I was really considering the fact that I was going to die in the sea more than get out of it. Out of nowhere I saw this little orange speedboat coming towards us and it was just amazing.

‘For anyone visiting the coast, you never know when they are going to need the services of the RNLI. Whether you live near the seas or go on holiday near the beach, please give what you can and help keep families like ours together.’

In Devon, Matthew Davey was out windsurfing with his Dad on the River Exe when he fell off his board and was caught by the strong tidal current which was pulling him out to sea. His dad Geoff was watching from the shore and alerted the RNLI lifeguards on duty, who immediately sprang into action on the Rescue Water Craft, locating Matthew at the mouth of the river, calming him and bringing him back to shore quickly and safely.

Matthew says;

‘The tide was pulling me further and further out. The further out I got, the waves were getting bigger and I was struggling with my kit. I realised that I needed help and I was preparing myself for the worst. I didn’t see the lifeguards arrive at first, I was too pre-occupied trying to work out how I could get myself out of the situation.

‘It was like a miracle seeing them there. Amazing seeing them and knowing that you’ll be safe, it was instant relief. Without them it might have been a very different Christmas and I can’t thank the lifeguard Dom and his team enough.

‘I am aware it has been a difficult time for the RNLI and that’s why I would urge people to get behind their Christmas appeal and give what they can to support these fantastic crews, who put themselves in danger to help others.’

The lifesaving charity had to spend £1.2M this year to ensure its volunteer lifeboat crews and beach lifeguards had the vital PPE, such as face masks and gloves, to keep our lifesavers and the public safe. This was money the charity hadn’t planned to spend, at a time when RNLI shops were forced to close and fundraising events were cancelled.

Torbay RNLI Deputy Coxswain James Hoare and his dad Jeff are fronting the charity’s Christmas appeal in the South West.

James says:

‘We’ve had a very challenging summer, rescuing those in difficulty in the midst of a pandemic and with foreign holidays being cancelled, we received more visitors to our coastline. Throughout 2020 the crew at Torbay and around the south west have been ready to answer the pager and rescue those in difficulty.

As a charity, the RNLI relies on the support of the public to continue saving lives – and that support is needed now more than ever.’

The RNLI’s Christmas Appeal hopes to raise over £2M in donations. Additional PPE and adapting to coronavirus restrictions has been challenging for the volunteer crew members and lifeguards across the South West. For 2020, the RNLI purchased 6.7 million units of coronavirus PPE - including almost 700,000 face masks, 2.4 million gloves and just under 5,000 litres of hand sanitiser.

Help us brave a wave we never expected. To make a donation to the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal visit: RNLI.org/Xmas

Notes to Editors

  • Interview opportunities are available (contact Amy or Marianne on the details below)
  • Please find attached j-peg images of James Hoare, Deputy Coxswain of Torbay RNLI lifeboat credit RNLI/Nigel Millard
  • Jpegs of Matthew being rescued by the Exmouth RNLI lifeguards and a screengrab of Matthew
  • The following footage available to download;
  • Rescue footage of Ben being rescued by the St Agnes volunteer lifeboat crew here
  • Video footage of Ben and his family recounting the rescue and thanking the St Agnes RNLI crew for saving his life is available here
  • Rescue footage of the incident captured on camera by Exmouth RNLI lifeguards is available here
  • A video of Matthew and Geoff Davey talking about Matthews rescue and their gratitude to the crew here
  • The RNLI has produced a compilation video of Ben, Hannah, Matthew and Geoff and other families spending Christmas together thanks to the RNLI which can be downloaded here
  • The RNLI’s Christmas appeal DRTV advert can be downloaded here

RNLI Contacts

For more information please contact Amy Caldwell, Regional Media Manager for the South West on 07920818807 or amy_caldwell@rnli.org.uk or Marianne Quinn, Regional Media Officer on 07786 668847 or Marianne_quinn@rnli.org.uk

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.

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 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.