Hoylake RNLI lifeboat was requested to launch by the UK Coastguard at 9.55pm on Sunday 28 February when a River Mersey pilot vessel reported seeing a red flare off New Brighton.
Red flares, either fired as a rocket or held in the hand, are widely used as a maritime distress signal.
Hoylake’s all-weather Shannon class lifeboat Edmund Hawthorn Micklewood and her volunteer crew launched and immediately began following a search pattern along the north Wirral coast heading towards New Brighton. The RNLI crew used the lifeboat’s radar and searchlights to look for any potential vessels or people in distress, while local Coastguard Rescue Teams searched along the shoreline.
When Hoylake RNLI lifeboat completed the first leg of its search, the crew liaised with the pilot vessel that had reported the flare to establish any further information about the potential casualty. The lifeboat then headed back to the west, expanding the search further out into Leasowe Bay.
The RNLI crew investigated a number of possible targets detected by its radar and after completing several legs of the search with no casualties located by the lifeboat or Coastguard teams, the UK Coastguard Operations Centre concluded that the flare sighting was a false alarm with good intent.
Hoylake RNLI lifeboat was stood down and returned to station to be washed down, refuelled and made ready for service again by the volunteer lifeboat and shore crews just after 2.00am.
Hoylake RNLI Coxswain Andy Dodd said: ‘Our volunteer lifeboat crew carried out an extensive search at sea last night based on the initial reports of the flare sighting. The search was helped by the calm sea conditions and a full moon.’
‘On this occasion it appears to have been a false alarm, but we encourage anyone who believes they’ve seen a red flare to report it to the Coastguard immediately by dialling 999 or on VHF Channel 16.’
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