Donate now

‘It’s Christmas Eve, and I am fearing for my life’

Lifeboats News Release

Dermot Ryan was moments away from the unthinkable on Christmas Eve last year, when he found himself in the sea, losing consciousness, his body temperature plummeting and waves crashing over him after being cut off by the tide.

His life was saved by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), specifically the charity’s lifeboat crew from Newhaven RNLI who plucked Dermot from the water when he was minutes away from drowning.

Dermot was paragliding on Christmas Eve when he landed on a small beach at the foot of some cliffs. His escape route was soon cut off by the incoming tide leaving him in a perilous position. He was able to use his phone to call for help but was soon immersed in the icy December water, being thrown around by the waves, inhaling the cold water as he floated on his back, in the hope someone was on their way to rescue him.

RNLI volunteers from Newhaven responded to their pager, leaving their loved ones, to answer Dermot’s call for help. They launched the lifeboat and upon arrival, spotted Dermot from a distance floating motionless in the water appearing to be face down. The crew feared it was too late to save him.

As they got closer, to their relief he was facing up and still alive. The lifeboat crew managed to navigate the crashing waves to get near enough to grab hold of Dermot and pull him onboard and take him to the safety of the lifeboat station.

Dermot said:

‘If the lifeboat crew hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t be here today. That’s the simple truth. They are absolute heroes.

‘I remember looking up at the blue sky the following day – Christmas morning – and a wave of euphoria washing over me. I still feel emotional thinking about it. It is so good to be alive.’

Every year thousands of RNLI volunteers will be ready to leave their loved ones behind at Christmas to answer the call, each time hoping to reunite another family, and see those in trouble at sea safely returned.

Lewis Arnold, Coxswain at Newhaven RNLI, said:

‘When we first arrived on the scene, I thought Dermot had drowned. I get a shiver down my spine every time I think about it, even now.

‘There’s no feeling quite like bringing someone home safe to their families – especially at Christmas. As lifeboat crew we couldn’t have saved Dermot’s life that day without kind donations from the public which fund the kit, training and equipment we need to save others and get home safely to our families.’

Even at Christmas, RNLI lifesavers are ready to drop everything at a moment’s notice and rush to the aid of someone in trouble on the water. The weather’s is at its worst and lives are on the line.

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.

The RNLI is launching its Christmas appeal, as the charity asks for help to continue its lifesaving work at sea.

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


Notes to editors:

  • Last Christmas (24 December 2021–1 January 2022), RNLI lifeboat crews across the UK and Ireland saved the lives of eight people, the highest number recorded in five years. The charity’s volunteer crews aided 88 people during the festive period in 2021, which is an 87% increase from 2020 and the highest number recorded since 2018. The latest figures come as the RNLI seeks support for its Christmas Appeal to save every one.

RNLI media contacts

For more information please telephone Oliver Wrynne-Simpson, RNLI National Media Manager, on 077951 27351 or [email protected] or contact the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789.


Dermot being rescued by RNLI Newhaven


Dermot Ryan


Dermot Ryan with the lifeboat crew who saved his life

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.

Learn more about the RNLI

For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

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.