Traumatic weekend for Eastbourne lifeboats

Lifeboats News Release

The volunteer crew of Eastbourne RNLI lifeboats spent a harrowing weekend searching for two missing crewmen who were lost after their fishing vessel suffered a catastrophic capsize off the Sussex coast.

RNLI/Bob Jeffery

The maritime rescue services were alerted early on Saturday morning (21 Nov) when an automatic signal was received from the EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) from the Brixham registered scalloping vessel Joanna C. All available resources were scrambled including Eastbourne RNLI all-weather lifeboat, Newhaven RNLI lifeboat, coastguard rescue helicopters from Lydd and the Solent, along with local coastguard teams from Birling Gap and Eastbourne. The beacon guided the rescuers to a position approximately 5 miles south of Newhaven. In gale force winds and heavy seas the vessel’s skipper was located clinging desperately to a lifebuoy and was hauled from the water by Newhaven Lifeboat and taken ashore for urgent medical assistance. The skipper indicated his boat had floundered in the heavy seas and sunk before they were able to launch their liferaft and that there were still two crewmen unaccounted for. The search was then joined by Eastbourne’s inshore lifeboat, Hastings all-weather lifeboat and numerous fishing vessels that had picked up emergency messages from HM Coastguard. The search continued all through the day and into the night without success.

Eventually the exhausted lifeboat crews were stood down and returned to station. The rescue mission was resumed at daybreak but unfortunately after a comprehensive search of an area covering many square miles the two young men were not recovered and remain lost to the sea. In a later statement Eastbourne lifeboat Coxswain Mark Sawyer commended his crew for their courageous efforts and on behalf of the crew and all the emergency services sent heartfelt sympathy to the grieving families.

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.

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