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Littlestone RNLI lifeboat called to possible people spotted in the water

Lifeboats News Release

Littlestone RNLI lifeboat was tasked recently to a potential rescue off St Mary's Bay in atrocious conditions.

RNLI/John Kenny

Shore Crew recover RNLI Littlestone Atlantic 85 lifeboat
In an emergency response involving HM Coastguard, the Kent Fire Service and the RNLI lifeboat The Jean McIvor, a major sea search was undertaken after a 999 call report of possible persons in the water.

As many people were settling down on their sofas to watch the Rugby World Cup Final on Saturday night (28 October), the Littlestone RNLI crew were responding to their pagers at around 6.10pm on a cold, windy, extremely wet night to reports of possibly one or more people in the sea off the coast.

On the shore the Coastguard and Fire Brigade were in attendance in case of casualties stuck in the mud . A very strong onshore wind made the sea challenging but the volunteer RNLI crew launched into these atrocious conditions and started a search in the area reported by the Coastguard.

The volunteers were joined by the HM Coastguard helicopter based at Lydd but weather conditions made visibility beyond 10 metres difficult. Such were the conditions that the Coastguard asked Dungeness RNLI station to ready their lifeboat for an immediate launch in the event that the Littlestone boat needed help. Each lifeboat station has flanking stations- stations on either side of them- who can be called on to help in complex rescues.

After about half an hour of searching the Littlestone crew spotted the casualty in the water- an upturned sofa that looked like two people struggling in the waves.

After being stood down by HM Coastguard, the Littlestone Lifeboat had to make a hazardous return to shore and rendezvous with the station recovery tractor and carriage. With force 7 gales driving the lifeboat and waves towards the beach, the Atlantic 85 Lifeboat was successfully recovered and driven back across the pitch black beach to the station.

Of course, besides the bravery and dedication of the lifeboat crew, the most vital ingredient in any successful launch or recovery today is the shore crew. These dedicated and highly trained volunteers are needed to help with every carriage launch – covering everything from driving complex launch vehicles, to marshalling onlookers to safety. And every lifeboat station, whatever the class of craft, needs a highly trained volunteer team to refuel, clean down and make ready for launch again.

Two notable performances on this shout came from Samuel Leigh, aged 18 yrs, who was attending his first shout as a member of the Shore Crew and Simon Matthews who was overseeing the whole operation on his first full shout as Deputy Launch Authority. (The Deputy Launch Authorities, or DLAs, are volunteers who assist the Lifeboat Operations Manager (LOM) in tasking and launching the lifeboat crew)

Samuel's father, Peter Leigh, was also the lifeboat helm - having joined the RNLI as volunteer crew at Littlestone in 1989 to work alongside his father Pat who joined Littlestone RNLI in 1967. This represents 57 continuous years of service and volunteering by one local family.

Simon Matthews, Littlestone RNLI Launch Authority for this shout, said 'When the pager goes, you stop whatever you are doing and head to the station. You have to assume the worst in these situations and all your training kicks in. It could have been a couple of children out in the water tonight so we have to launch'.

If you see someone else in trouble:
Call for help: Call 999 or 112. Ask for the coastguard.
Throw them a line: Have something that floats or that they can hold on to? Throw it to them.
Stay safe: Do not enter the water yourself. Too many people drown trying to save others.

Media Contacts:

For any further information, please contact John Kenny, Littlestone Lifeboat Press Officer, on 07747 033443, or email [email protected]

RNLI/John Kenny

Back on solid ground after a challenging recovery

RNLI/John Kenny

Shore Crew cleaning the lifeboat and tractor in poor weather

RNLI/John Kenny

18 yr old volunteer Samuel Leigh on his first 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.