When it rains, it pours – with no exception for Newhaven RNLI Lifeboat!
Newhaven Lifeboat and her volunteer crew were tasked twice on Sunday 15 November into gale force conditions taking them into the Channel’s South West Shipping Lane and Cuckmere Haven.
Newhaven RNLI crew pagers sounded first at 1.29am. HM Coastguard requested the launch of the station's Severn class lifeboat David and Elizabeth Acland after reports from a commercial vessel of a white flashing light in the water.
A six-strong crew mustered under the command of duty Coxswain Lee Blacknell. The lifeboat launched to the last reported sighting of the light, which was flashing sixty times in sixty seconds. The all-weather lifeboat proceeded into very rough sea conditions. Gale force 8 with gusts to force 10. They advised Solent Coastguard of their 60-minute on scene estimated arrival time.
The lifeboat’s search commenced as they approached the last known position of the flashing light, some 16NMs south of Newhaven. All traffic transiting the south west lane of the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) had been advised to keep a sharp look-out. Rescue helicopter 163 had been tasked and was making its way to the scene.
HM Coastguard provided a search pattern for the lifeboat to conduct, during which Newhaven volunteer crew spotted a flashing light. They cross-checked this estimated position with radar, charts and the RNLI Systems and Information Management system (SIMS) to confirm that it was not a registered mark.
As the lifeboat approached the light, it became more visible from within the rolling, rough sea conditions and evident that it was a light of the type that might be from a lifejacket, attached to a fishing pot marker buoy that had become detached from its gear.
Lewis Arnold, RNLI Coxswain/ duty mechanic described the scene as they prepared to recover the detatched flashing marker: ‘I stuck my head out of the hatch. It was like a scene from the Perfect Storm out there. A dark and stormy night of rolling waves and horizontal rain. But it’s what we do. Better to find this than a casualty who would have had little chance against the weather and dangers of an international shipping lane.’
The light and marker were recovered.The lifeboat returned to the station, was refuelled and ready for service again at 5.00am.
Pagers sounded for a second time at 1.09pm. The Newhaven lifeboat and her volunteer crew launched to a report of two swimming casualties in the water at Cuckmere. During the time that the lifeboat was making way to the location, it was confirmed that one of the casualties had self-recovered.
Newhaven lifeboat arrived on the scene. HM Coastguard were on the shore. The HM Coastguard helicopter was 8 minutes away. Due to depth and sea state the lifeboat was unable to move in close to shore.
A Coastguard rescue swimmer swam out to the casualty and negotiating very difficult sea conditions, recovered the second casualty to the shore. The casualty was airlifted by HM Coastguard helicopter to Eastbourne District General Hospital. At which point the lifeboat stood down and returned to Newhaven.
Notes to editors
· The RNLI relies on public donations to provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the coast of the UK and Ireland, and on the Thames.
· RNLI top safety tips for Open Water Swimming:
- Never swim alone. The safest way to wild swim is at an Open Water swimming site, with a club or between the red and yellow flags on a lifeguarded beach. If you can’t get to a lifeguarded beach, learn more about your chosen location and check hazard signage by finding an organised swim group in your local community.
- Acclimatise to cold water slowly and enter gradually to reduce the risk of cold water shock.
- Check weather and tide times before you go, avoid swimming in dangerous conditions.
- Take a means for calling for help in a waterproof phone pouch and have this on you at all times.
- If you see someone in trouble, call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.
- Wear a brightly coloured hat plus a tow float for increased visibility.
- Always swim parallel to the shore and not straight out. Cold water, waves and currents can tire you out quickly and make it harder to return to shore.
- Never swim under the influence of alcohol.
RNLI media contacts
For more information please telephone Roz Ashton, RNLI volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer on 07900 887423 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Paul Dunt, Regional Media Officer on 07785 296252 Paul_Dunt@rnli.org.uk or contact the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789.
For more information on the RNLI please visit rnli.org. News releases and other media resources, including RSS feeds, downloadable photos and video, are available at the RNLI News Centre rnli.org/news-and-media.
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.