Swanage volunteer lifeboat receive commendation for rescue.

Lifeboats News Release

Three of our volunteers have been awarded a commendation from the RNLI for their brave rescue of two people in 2020.

It was the first call out of the new decade, the light was starting to fade on a winter afternoon when the pager sounded.

UK Coastguard had requested the launch of Swanage’s inshore lifeboat ‘Phyl & Jack’ to rescue two people cut off by the tide between Ballard Point and Old Harry.

With the initial information received that people were cut off by the tide between Studland and Swanage, we assumed the people would be around Old Harry Rocks, a popular spot that walkers often flock to at low tide. However, the further details given stated that the casualties were between Old Harry and Ballard, therefore the search commenced at Ballard and as the inshore lifeboat searched the cliff they caught sight of a mobile phone light.

The casualties were in one of the small coves to the west of Old Harry rocks that are under water when the tide comes in. The tide was racing in, and the casualties were about to be engulfed in freezing January sea.

The sea conditions made approaching the casualties difficult as there were breaking waves in an area known to have many submerged rocks.

Helmsman Matt Steeden had to assess the conditions on scene and consider how the casualties could be safely reached. Initially the inshore lifeboat (ILB) used a technique known as ‘veering’ to approach the casualties, who were sheltering in a cave. The ILB’s anchor was set and the boat driven astern towards the cliffs, in tricky conditions, using the anchor to prevent the boat surging backwards in the waves. However, due to the location of rocks and the breaking waves it was not possible to reach the casualties using this technique.

Volunteer lifeboat Helmsman Matt Steeden said ‘after initially trying to veer in to reach the casualties it became clear we would need to take the boat in as close as we could reach and then my two crew would jump in to hold the boat head to sea in the breaking swell and then recover the casualties to the lifeboat.

With the light fading fast and seeing that the casualties were already cold and wet, we asked for the all-weather lifeboat to launch to our location so that the casualties could quickly be transferred to the all-weather lifeboat (ALB) where they could be sheltered from the elements.

I manoeuvred the boat as close to the shoreline as I could reach in the surf. Alan held the boat head to sea and Alice went over the casualties to guide them to the lifeboat. Both casualties were quickly recovered before the crew jumped aboard and we made our way out through the surf’

The casualties were extremely lucky to be able to make contact by phone from their location and if we had not arrived as quickly as we did, the casualties would have been swept out into the freezing sea’.

The rescue was recorded by the RNLI as two lives saved, which means that without the assistance of the lifeboats the casualties would have died.

Lifeboat Coxswain Dave Turnbull said ‘This rescue shows how quickly a situation can quickly become dangerous and a matter of life or death. These two young men are lucky to be alive and I’m extremely proud of how Matt, Alan and Alice handled the situation in challenging conditions.

At the time of the rescue Alan and Alice had only recently passed out as ILB full crew and this rescue showed how all their hard work and training had paid off’.

Notes to Editors

  • Photographs of Alice Haw, Matt Steeden, Alan Parmenter. Credit Becky Mack.

RNLI media contacts

For more information please telephone Becky Mack, Swanage RNLI Volunteer Press Officer on 07812 558487 or at lpo@swanagelifeboat.org.uk

Alice Haw, Matt Steeden (Helm) and Alan Parmenter in front of the inshore lifeboat at Swanage Lifeboat Station

RNLI/Becky Mack

Alice Haw, Matt Steeden (Helm) and Alan Parmenter in front of the inshore lifeboat at Swanage Lifeboat Station
Alice Haw, Matt Steeden (Helm) and Alan Parmenter in front of the inshore lifeboat at Swanage Lifeboat Station

RNLI/Becky Mack

Alice Haw, Matt Steeden (Helm) and Alan Parmenter in front of the inshore lifeboat at Swanage Lifeboat Station
Alice Haw, Matt Steeden (Helm) and Alan Parmenter in front of the inshore lifeboat at Swanage Lifeboat Station

RNLI/Becky Mack

Alice Haw, Matt Steeden (Helm) and Alan Parmenter in front of the inshore lifeboat at Swanage Lifeboat Station
Alice Haw, Matt Steeden (Helm) and Alan Parmenter in front of the inshore lifeboat at Swanage Lifeboat Station

RNLI/Becky Mack

Alice Haw, Matt Steeden (Helm) and Alan Parmenter in front of the inshore lifeboat at Swanage Lifeboat Station

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.

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