South West RNLI volunteers on call to save lives this Christmas
Volunteer RNLI lifeboat crews across the south west 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 interrupted
by the sound of the pager.
During the festive period* last year 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 also aided 88 people, 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 volunteers across the region are prepared to leave their loved ones during Christmas and New Year celebrations to save others who may be in danger, including those from Portishead, Salcombe and Fowey RNLI.
Bruce du Preez and Susan Beaton from Portishead 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.
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.’
Salcombe RNLI were also tasked to an incident on 28 December last year, involving a kite surfer who had got into difficulty.
Volunteer Deputy Second Coxswain, James Fearn, shares his feelings regarding Christmas with the RNLI and being at the end of his pager:
‘Having been a volunteer crew member at Salcombe for 22 years you tend to accept that when you’re involved with the RNLI, getting a call at any time is just a way of life and becomes the norm.
‘Having said that, a shout around Christmas will always tug on the heart strings, not just because you are leaving family and friends behind, but it means somebody somewhere is having a tough time. It’s nice to know that hopefully with our help, we can make their Christmas a little happier.’
22 year old volunteer, Amelia Luck, from Fowey RNLI became the first ever female helm at Fowey lifeboat station last year. Amelia was braving a sea dip on Christmas Day 2020, but that year it became an even more memorable occasion when her pager sounded just as they were beginning their swim.
Amelia reflected on the event, which saw Fowey’s volunteer crew called to the aid of a yacht which had been drifting all night after suffering engine failure:
‘I got a lift to the station with another crew member and arrived dripping wet in a dryrobe with my swimsuit still on underneath! The skipper was very reluctant to ask for help on Christmas Day and very apologetic when we arrived to help. But that’s what we’re trained to do - we’re always ready to respond, 24/7, whether that means leaving dinner on the table, or being called away from a family event. There’s really no feeling quite like bringing someone home safe to their families – especially at Christmas.’
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, please visit: RNLI.org/Xmas
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.
*Here, ‘festive period’ refers to 24 December 2021–1 January 2022.
Notes to editors
· Please see attached images of Portishead volunteer crew Bruce du Preez and Susan Beaton, Salcombe volunteer second coxswain James Fearn and Fowey volunteer helm Amelia Luck.
· 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.
· Interviews with volunteer lifeboat crew are available upon request and can be arranged before Christmas.
RNLI media contacts
For media enquiries please contact Becky Bright, RNLI Media Engagement Placement (south west) on 07929 673281 or [email protected] or Emily Hazard, Regional Media Officer on 07866 064437 or [email protected]. Alternatively, please contact the RNLI National Press Office on 01202 336789.
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 over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and, in a normal year, 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.
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
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