Donate now

Teenager reunites with Weston-super-Mare RNLI volunteers who saved his life

Lifeboats News Release

Tommy and his mum, Ann-Marie returned to Weston-super-Mare RNLI lifeboat station to meet the volunteer crew who saved Tommy’s life when he and his friend were cut off by the tide, just as darkness was falling, on Sunday (12 November 2023).

With another hour of incoming tide, the boys were stranded in the cold and dark with no escape route, when the lifeboat crew arrived to help.

The 13-year-old boys had been exploring the landside area around Birnbeck Pier, unaware that the incoming tide was to cut them off from returning the way they had come. The pair were completely stuck with no means of escape, either via the cliffs above which were too sheer, or along the shore which had already been covered by water. Realising their predicament, they used their mobile phones to call 999 for help.

Tommy describes the situation he and his friend found themselves in;

‘We were exploring along the rocks and on our way back the tide came in on us. It came up and up and we had to climb up higher.

We were trying to think of what to do and we thought of calling 999. We had our phones with us. I made the 999 call.

I tried to stay calm and not act too scared so they could hear me properly.’

Weston-super-Mare RNLI’s volunteer crew launched the D class inshore lifeboat just after 5pm as darkness was setting in. They headed for the boys’ last known location and were able to quickly locate them on the shore, aided by the Weston-super-Mare Cliff Rescue Team who were illuminating their position from above.

Meanwhile Tommy’s mum Ann-Marie had received the phone call every parent dreads. She says:

‘I was at home, sitting down watching the TV with the little ones. I had a phone call come in from a private number. I didn’t answer it at first but it called a third time so I picked up – when someone calls that many times you assume something must be quite urgent. They said ‘this is the Police’. My heart just sank.

‘I pulled my jeans on top of my pyjamas, and rushed out the door. I hurried to the seafront, as I wanted to get there and start searching for Tommy. The whole way I kept ringing him and it kept cutting off. I kept thinking ‘oh my god, is that it?

‘I got to Knightstone Harbour and rang him again; this time he answered and said ‘the Police are here now’.

‘Then they told me that the lifeboat was on the way. I was relieved but also still scared as he wasn’t in the lifeboat yet. I was so pleased they knew where he was. We’d only had the carnival a couple of days before and the lifeboat came past the house.’

Tommy says:

‘When they said they were on the way to find me, I felt quite relieved. It was the Police that found us first and then they called the RNLI.

'I was very happy because I knew we were going to be saved and going to be taken to safety.’

Simon Johnson, volunteer RNLI helm on the D class lifeboat, said:

‘When we arrived the boys were completely trapped on the rocks with nowhere to go. They had to climb up to escape the incoming tide and conditions were cold, wet and windy. A lifeboat rescue was the only way to reach them.’

Simon put two of his crew ashore, with lifejackets for the casualties. He then carefully and skillfully maneuvered the lifeboat back into the shore, between the sets of waves, to pick up each casualty individually, until both boys and both crew members were back onboard the lifeboat.

Simon said:

‘We were able to safely get them down onto the lifeboat and the crew were very happy to unite them with some very relieved family members waiting ashore. Weston’s fast incoming tide can easily catch people out especially in the dark but luckily the boys did the right thing by calling 999 as soon as they realised they were in danger, meaning we could locate them quickly, preventing them from being overcome from the tide, cold and exposure.’

The boys were wrapped in survivor blankets and hoods and taken back to Knightstone Harbour where both their parents were waiting. Both boys were checked over for injuries, thankfully they were fine but cold, and given warm blankets and hot drinks.

Ann-Marie says:

‘The area around Knightstone was full of cars, lifesavers who were looking for Tommy. I was in awe because they had all probably been in their family homes having their dinner and left their loved ones to look for him.

‘I was shaking when they returned to the station. I was desperate to get to him. Before they’d even got the towel off him, I was over to hold him. He had a big smile because he’d enjoyed the boat ride.

‘I just think it’s amazing what the crews do. They don’t get paid, they do this off their own backs to help people. I want to say a massive thank you again to the crew. Without them, that phone call could have been very different.’

Chris Ware, volunteer RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager at Weston-super-Mare said:

‘The boys are extremely lucky, they did exactly the right thing to call for help when they did. There was another hour of tide to come in and the very real danger that they would have been in the water, exposed to the cold, in the dark, a really dangerous place to be. There is no doubt that the quick response and skilled professionalism that our volunteer crew were able to put into practice saved their lives. We were so happy to be able to reunite them with their parents.’

Notes to editors

  • Footage from the helmet camera worn by the RNLI lifeboat crew is available to view and download from here credit RNLI
  • Images taken by Ann-Marie Tucker, Tommy’s mum are also available to view and download from here.

RNLI media contacts

For more information, please contact Weston’s Volunteer Lifeboat Press Officers Holly Turner [email protected] 07930279912 or Rob Lewis [email protected] 07493369282 or Amy Caldwell, RNLI Regional Media Manager [email protected] 07920818807

Four RNLI crew members in full kit sit on the side of an inshore lifeboat with the sea and a tall building in the background. A young boy is sat on the floor of the lifeboat.


Tommy meeting the Weston super Mare RNLI lifeboat crew who saved him and his friend
Four RNLI crew members in full kit stand in front of an inshore lifeboat with signage and a tall building in the background. A woman and boy stand in front of them.


Tommy and his mum Ann-Marie with the Weston crew who saved him

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.