Five new crew members on call for the first time this Christmas at Sligo Bay RNLI

A busy mother of two young children is among five new volunteers who will be carrying pagers and on call for the first time this Christmas at Sligo Bay RNLI.

Sligo bay crew members
Pictured from left are Rachel Wirtz, Yvette Carter, Reece Cawley, Caroline Collery and Noah Canham. Missing from the photo is Aisling Murphy. 

As the charity launches its Christmas appeal, Rachel Wirtz is preparing to swap turkey and pudding and run to the lifeboat station should her pager go off. She is urging people across Sligo to help her crew and the thousands of other volunteer crews on call over the Christmas period, to continue their lifesaving work.

‘I live locally in Rosses Point and see the amazing service the RNLI provides and the work that its volunteers do in the community,’ Rachel explains. ‘My background is in lifesaving having been a pool lifeguard in Sligo with Irish Water Safety and taught lifesaving and basic life support to children and adults. I work as a physiotherapist in Sligo University Hospital and like to help people. I have a passion for open water swimming and water sport activities, so it always seemed like a natural fit for me to become a crew member.

‘I had considered joining before and met with Willie Murphy, our Lifeboat Operations Manager but couldn’t commit when I was starting a family. Now that my two girls are a bit older (five and seven) I feel I have more time to give, and it is an honour and a privilege to be involved.’

Rachel joined the crew over a year ago but due to the pandemic and restrictions, she couldn’t work on completing her assessments face to face until this year. While she has been involved in call outs as shore crew, she hasn’t yet made a lifeboat call out to sea.

‘The standard and extent of the training has been excellent, and I am learning terrific new skills. There was a rush of adrenaline and excitement rather than apprehension for my first call out. I am excited about being able to contribute and I feel very lucky to be a part of it.’ 

Among the other new lifeboat crew members at Sligo Bay RNLI, are Reece Meldrum and Aisling Murphy while Noah Canham and Caroline Collery have joined the shore crew. Yvette Carter meanwhile, will be spending her first Christmas as a lifeboat helm.

Like Rachel, each RNLI crew member signs up to save every one from drowning – it has been the charity’s mission since 1824. 

This Christmas many will leave their loved ones behind to answer the call, each time hoping to reunite another family, and see those in trouble on the water safely returned. Over the past decade, RNLI lifeboats have launched over 1,200 times during the festive period. But these rescues would not be possible without donations from the RNLI’s generous supporters, helping to fund the essential kit, training and equipment needed by lifeboat crews all year round. 

Rachel says: ‘This is my first Christmas on call, and I know even over the festive period, our lifesavers are ready to drop everything at a moment’s notice and rush to the aid of someone in trouble on the water. At this time of year, the weather can be at its worst and lives can be on the line.

‘We know that every time our crews go out, they hope for a good outcome, but sadly this sometimes isn’t the case. We hope that this year’s Christmas appeal will show people just how tough it can be, but also that with their help we can get so much closer to our goal of saving every one.’ 

To make a donation to the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal visit: RNLI.org/Xmas

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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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Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.