Hoylake RNLI rescues stranded walkers around Hilbre despite island closure
At 1:36pm on Thursday 28 May the UK Coastguard requested Hoylake RNLI hovercraft to launch to reports of a number of people in danger of being cut off by the incoming tide. This call-out led to several other members of the public being rescued from potential danger along the North Wirral coast.
Hoylake’s relief hovercraft ‘John Russell’ and New Brighton RNLI lifeboat both launched quickly and headed to the scene near Leasowe Lighthouse, where Wirral Coastguard Rescue Team officers were assisting two adults and two children stranded on a sandbank. The casualties were brought on board the Hoylake hovercraft and transported to the safety of Dovepoint slipway in Meols.
With the tide still flooding, the hovercraft returned to the sandbank where a further two casualties were cut off and were being assisted by Coastguard officers. The casualties and Coastguard officers were brought on board the hovercraft and landed at the Dovepoint steps on the sea wall.
The beach was evidently very busy and the RNLI crew and Coastguard agreed that the hovercraft should carry out a search of the shoreline to make sure that everyone using the beach was safe. The hovercraft headed out to the water’s edge and headed west towards Hilbre Point.
The hovercraft crew spoke to around 30 people and advised them of the dangers of the incoming tide, before noticing that there were several groups of people between Hilbre Island, Middle Eye and Little Eye. The islands were now surrounded by the tide and had been closed by Wirral Council as part of safety measures around the Coronvirus pandemic.
The RNLI hovercraft headed to Middle Eye, where two people were found attempting to cross through the water from Hilbre Island to make their way back to West Kirby. A Hoylake RNLI crew member met the casualties and escorted them on board the hovercraft. The crew then searched Middle Eye and Hilbre Island and advised further groups of people of the islands’ closure and that they were now cut off from the shore. The groups were happy to stay on the islands over the tide, so the hovercraft headed back towards the shore.
While en route, a further four people were found on a shallow rocky reef to the south of Middle Eye. They were wet and stranded on dangerous terrain as the tide had now covered the area. The group of four were brought on board the hovercraft and all six casualties were transported to Little Eye, where they were landed and met by Wirral Coastguard officers.
The Hoylake RNLI crew then assisted the Coastguard in advising around 70 people around Little Eye that they should return along a safe route to West Kirby due to the incoming tide. At this point, the RNLI crew were approached by a member of the public who reported that a child was missing. The crew liaised with the Coastguard and passed over further information, before the child was happily located 10 minutes later with her mother by Coastguard officers at Dee Lane in West Kirby.
The Hoylake RNLI hovercraft then returned to the station, monitoring the crowds still on the beach along the way. On its return the volunteer RNLI shore crew were waiting to ensure the hovercraft was washed down, refuelled and made ready for service again.
This incident was the sixth call-out for the Hoylake RNLI volunteers in a week, which have included many people cut off by the tide around the Wirral coast.
Hoylake RNLI hovercraft pilot Tony Warburton said: ‘The Hilbre Islands remain closed, but many people are still heading out there and getting cut off by the tide. If you’re at the coast, always have a plan – check the tide times, the weather forecast and local safety signage and always keep a close eye on your family on the beach and in the water.’
We’re urging everyone to please be aware of dangers around our coast, take responsibility for yourselves and your loved ones, and remember that in a coastal emergency you should dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard.’
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.