Busy year for lifeboat crews

The broken down fishing boat under tow SUS-140710-083956003
The broken down fishing boat under tow SUS-140710-083956003

SHOREHAM’S lifeboatmen have been praised for their efforts in notable rescues as the RNLI releases its annual launch statistics for Sussex.

The rescue figures, released today, reveal a busy 2014 for volunteer lifeboat crew members from the eight lifeboat stations in Sussex, including Shoreham and Littlehampton.

The 442 rescue missions last year involved a wide range of incidents, including commercial vessels in trouble, distressed fishermen, swimmers and leisure marine users.

Nine incidents were classed as ‘lives saved’ – a specific RNLI criteria where a person would have most likely died if not for the RNLI rescuing them. A total of 453 people were rescued, of which 17 were given first aid.

The busiest lifeboat station in the county was Eastbourne, launching 120 times and rescuing 131 people, making it the RNLI’s second busiest coastal lifeboat station in 2014.

The figures also show 177 launches, more than a third of the total in Sussex, were after nightfall.

Allen Head, divisional operations manager, said: “Yet again, our volunteers have had a very busy 12 months. It was the warmest year on record for the UK, but conversely the winter storms of January and February brought damaging winds and inland and coastal flooding. The former may well have enticed more people on to our beaches and into the water, while the latter no doubt made conditions worse for anyone on or near the sea.”

He praised the hundreds of people who carry their pager, downing tools and dropping everything to respond to a call for help day or night, come rain or shine.

“Our volunteer crews are the lifeblood of the RNLI, given the commitment they make. Our message is that we will always launch to assist people in distress, but we are also increasingly encouraging people to be mindful of the potential dangers associated with the sea.”

Among the notable incidents was the November launch to search for a man spotted jumping from Brighton Pier, involving lifeboat volunteers from Brighton, Newhaven and Shoreham.

Shoreham’s volunteer crew was also launched to a notable incident in October, a fishing vessel that had broken down in rough seas and squally rain.

During 2014, the RNLI ran a national Respect the Water campaign, which aims to reduce the number of coastal drownings.

The year also saw the charity’s Coastal Incident Reduction teams grow in size and scope, with the aim of educating and informing members of the public, and preventing them getting into difficulty in the first place.

Mr Head said: “Through our lifeboats, lifeguards and safety messaging, the RNLI provides a ring of safety from the beach right out to the open seas.

“However, the training and equipment needed to do this costs money, so we are hugely grateful to everyone who supports in whatever way they can.”