Newhaven Lifeboat and her crew of six launched at 06:14am on Saturday 21 November, requested by HM Coastguard in response to an EPIRB* alert located six nautical miles south of Newhaven.
The emergency beacon alert came from a fishing vessel. HM Coastguard immediately sent the Coastguard rescue helicopter 163 from Lydd and RNLI all weather lifeboats from Newhaven and shortly after, Eastbourne. HM Coastguard Rescue teams were sent to check for sightings from the shore.
The fishing vessel was confirmed to be Joanna C, registered in Brixham, a 45-foot scalloping vessel with three people on board.
Another fishing vessel in the area responded to the Coastguard radio broadcasts and began helping with the search, soon after joined by many more vessels in the area. The Coastguard rescue helicopter based at Lee On Solent was also sent out to support the search.
Debris was located close to the location of the EPIRB alert and the vessel was confirmed to have sunk. It was established that two of the casualties were from Newhaven and one from Torbay in Devon.
Newhaven Lifeboat was nearing the end of a search pattern at approximately 8:45am after already more than two hours of searching.
Andy Bull, volunteer crew at Newhaven, says, ‘After a while of searching you start to question, are we in the right place, while still looking and trying to visualise anything in the water that could be relevant.’
At this moment, Andy described his next action as feeling like a double-take and called out, ‘Starboard-side. There’s someone in the water.’
The casualty was sighted, wearing only a T-shirt and a pair of jeans, holding onto a lifebuoy and waving.
The David and Elizabeth Acland made haste to the casualty. Lewis Arnold, Newhaven Lifeboat Coxswain and crew prepared the onboard casualty recovery system. Although very cold, the casualty remained conscious and was successfully retrieved from the water.
Lewis Arnold, says, ‘This is a very brave man who did exceptionally well to hold on for us, in 11 degree Celsius water for an extended period. It was a relief to see him.’
Newhaven Lifeboat returned at speed to the lifeboat station. From there the casualty was transferred by ambulance to the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton.
Following transfer of the casualty, Newhaven Lifeboat prepared for immediate relaunch at 09:30am, still under the command of Lewis Arnold, with the addition of one more Newhaven volunteer crew member. They returned to the location to continue the search for the two remaining missing crew members.
Search patterns continued towards Eastbourne following the drifting tide.
The search effort was maintained throughout the day by both Newhaven and Eastbourne Lifeboats, HM Coastguard on shore and by helicopter, and not least, the significant fleet of local vessels who supported the operation throughout.
Newhaven Lifeboat returned to the station at 4.07pm for a crew welfare break and by 16:44 had launched again for a third time, having completed a partial crew change over to resume the on-going search for the two missing men. At this time, Eastbourne Lifeboat returned to its station.
The search was suspended to be resumed at daybreak. Newhaven Lifeboat had returned to the station at 8:01pm
Newhaven Lifeboat resumed coordination and with her volunteer crew of seven launched for a fourth time at 07:00am on Sunday 22 November to continue the search for the two missing men.
Roger Cohen, RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager, says, ‘It’s been an extraordinarily difficult 36 hours here in Newhaven for the community, and especially, the family, friends and colleagues of the three men who were on board the
Joanna C. We are deeply saddened by this shocking event.’
HM Coastguard made the difficult decision to stand down the RNLI all weather lifeboats at 1pm on Sunday 22 November. Newhaven’s
David and Elizabeth Acland returned to the station at 1:43pm
RNLI Eastbourne’s inshore lifeboat was tasked to conduct a shoreline search from 13:00 until it was stood down.
Lewis Arnold, Newhaven Coxswain, says, ‘Our best wishes are with the recovered casualty and our deepest sympathies go out to the families of the two men we have been unable to locate.’
Notes to editors
*An EPIRB or Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon is used to alert search and rescue services in the event of an emergency. It does this by transmitting a coded message via the free to use, multinational Cospas-Sarsat network. A 406 MHz distress frequency signal is sent via satellite and earth stations to the nearest rescue co-ordination centre.
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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.
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