Christmas on call for Somerset RNLI volunteers

Lifeboats News Release

Volunteer RNLI lifeboat crews from Somerset’s four lifeboat stations* will be on duty this festive season, ready to launch and answer the call for help. As they call on the public to support the RNLI’s lifesaving work this Christmas, many are reflecting on previous Christmas events that were

Helen Lazenby

Portishead RNLI volunteer Susan Beaton

interrupted by the sound of the pager.

Including Portishead RNLI volunteers Bruce du Preez and Susan Beaton who were part of a team of volunteers who responded to the call for help on Boxing Day last year.

The pager sounded at about 2.20pm to a small vessel which had broken down just beyond Black Nore Lighthouse in the Bristol Channel with four people on board. With no power and a fast-outgoing tide, the casualties managed to temporarily secure themselves to a buoy and wait for help to arrive.

Volunteer lifeboat helm Bruce du Preez who has volunteered with Portishead lifeboat for 20 years said;

‘The pager went off just as my wife’s family had arrived for a Boxing Day lunch, we hadn’t really started to enjoy it together yet but, as on so many occasions over the years, of course dinner can always be put aside but a shout can’t.

You don’t always know what you are going to when the pager goes, but the unique nature of this shout was that we had a little time to discuss possible solutions prior to the launching the boat. We took spare fuel with us in case they had ran out, fortunately that turned out to be the case. A simple solution thankfully and we escorted the four casualties on board their boat back to the marina. Lunch was a little cold but at least we helped to make a difference to the casualties that day.’

Fellow volunteer crew member and trainee helm Susan Beaton will also be on call this festive season. On Boxing Day Susan was at home enjoying her Christmas leave when the pager went. She says;

‘I was about to call my family who live in Scotland. I had missed visiting them over Christmas as I had gone down with Covid. It had been a long time since I had seen them, but when the pager goes, so do we. It was a good outcome on the shout, and I was able to catch up with the family when we got back to shore.’

Rescue at any time of year 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.

Lucy Ashton, Regional Engagement Manager at the RNLI, said: ‘Even at Christmas, our lifesavers are ready to drop everything at a moment’s notice and rush to the aid of someone in trouble on the water.

‘But we couldn’t rescue people without kind donations from the public which fund the kit, training and equipment we need to save others and get home safely, at Christmas and all year round.’

To make a donation to the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal, visit:

The RNLI encourage those visiting coastal areas this Christmas to:

· Check the weather forecast, tide times and read local hazard signage to understand local risks.

· If you get into trouble Float to Live – lie on your back and relax, resisting the urge to thrash about.

· In an emergency dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard.

Notes to editors

· Please see attached images of Portishead volunteer crew Bruce du Preez and Susan Beaton, plus images from the helmet cam footage from the shout on Boxing Day 2021 (unfortunately no footage is available)

· The Christmas period refers to 24 December to 1 January.

· Lifeboat crews are ready to launch 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and Christmas is no exception. Over the last five years*, RNLI lifesavers have aided over 350 people, saved 18 lives, launched 619 times, and have spent over 840 hours at sea during the holiday season.

· *The five-year period is from 2017 to 2021.

· *Somerset’s four lifeboat stations are Minehead, Burnham on Sea, Weston super Mare and Portishead

· Interview with Susan Beaton is available upon request.

RNLI media contacts

For more information please contact Amy Caldwell, Regional Media Manager at [email protected] or Becky Bright, RNLI Media Engagement Placement, [email protected]

RNLI/Nathan Williams

Portishead RNLI volunteer Bruce du Preez


Helmet camera image from the shout

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.