RNLI statement on Channel incident

Lifeboats Statement

Our thoughts are with the families and loved ones of those who sadly lost their lives in yesterday’s tragic incident in the English Channel.

RNLI lifeboats logo


The RNLI exists to save lives at sea

In the very early hours of 14 December, HM Coastguard tasked RNLI volunteer crews from Dungeness, Ramsgate and Dover to an incident in which a small, inflatable boat, crossing the Channel got into difficulties. On arrival, crews were faced with the harrowing situation of a number of people distressed and in the water. Volunteers carried out the rescue of a number of people and returned them to Dover before subsequently re-tasking to search for more casualties.

The RNLI exists to save lives at sea. Yesterday saw our volunteer crews do all they could to prevent people from drowning. Sadly, it has been confirmed that four people lost their lives. Searches continued throughout the night last night with all-weather lifeboat crews and inshore lifeboat crews from Dungeness, Ramsgate, Dover, Walmer and Hastings, all forming part of the operation with other emergency services and search and rescue assets under the coordination and control of HM Coastguard.

We are grateful beyond words for the selfless dedication of our volunteers. However, this is a stark reminder of how dangerous this stretch of water can be.

In recent months RNLI crews have undergone additional training and been provided with specialist equipment in preparation for incidents such as this. Whilst we hoped such an incident would never happen, we have always known that it might. The RNLI response to this tragedy has been in conjunction with our search and rescue partners and the RNLI would like to offer our thanks to the UK fishing vessels whose actions on scene clearly saved the lives of many casualties.

As a charity we are incredibly proud of the work we do to save lives at sea. We do not judge anyone who we rescue, or how they came to be in the water. We mourn the lives that have been lost to drowning and thank our volunteer crews for their continued dedication and commitment.

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.