Weston RNLI festive callouts

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By Carol_Deacon | Wednesday, January 02, 2013, 12:03

Foolhardy fisherman made the festive season a big challenge for lifeboat crews.

The RNLI crews at Weston-super-Mare were called away from their families three times during the Christmas holiday.

The first alarm went off at 1.30pm on Christmas Day when a man was spotted entering the water near Uphill and the lifeboats were asked to search. 

The police and coastguard joined the search with the rescue helicopter from RAF Chivenor.

However no one was found and the boats were stood down after about two hours. 

The crews were able to re-join the family festivities at 4.30pm.

The rest of Christmas week went quietly until Saturday, December 29. 

Just before 10am Swansea coastguard contacted the Weston RNLI launching authority as a person had reported a dinghy drifting out of control at Sand Bay. 

The crew were paged and the boats began to launch but it was a false alarm and it they were recalled and stood down.

Later that same day the pagers went off again. 

The coastguard had received several 999 calls about a dinghy apparently in trouble near Birnbeck Island. 

To make matters worse the weather forecast was dreadful. 

A gale was due to arrive within a few hours and a small dinghy in the Bristol Channel would have had little chance under such circumstances 

Both lifeboats were launched at 2.30pm.

By the time the lifeboats reach the reported position, the dinghy had started its engine and was proceeding towards Clevedon. 

In view of the deteriorating weather both lifeboats chased after the dinghy to check all was well.

On reaching the vessel there were three men on board who appeared to be fishing. 

They had come from Clevedon and were poorly equipped. 

They only had two lifejackets which were not being worn, no flares to summon help and no VHF radio to communicate with the coastguard. 

Also, despite the fact that it would be getting dark before they could have reached their landing place they had no navigation lights. 

The lifeboat crews pointed out these problems to the fishermen but they did not seem to understand the danger they were in. 

They said they had a mobile phone if they need to call for help! 

They refused the help of the lifeboats and insisted on continuing to fish. 

Swansea coastguard then allowed one on the lifeboats to return to station but kept the other lifeboat standing by the casualty until the fishermen agreed to try to land at 5pm.

Even then the fishermen had great difficulty landing their craft and needed the help of the Clevedon mobile coastguard.

The RNLI volunteers eventually made their way home at 6.30pm.

RNLI lifeboat operations manager Pete Holder said: "Our role is to save lives at sea. 

"We do that with volunteer crews and depend on public donations. 

"We are on call 365 days of the year and will always answer the call if someone is in trouble."

RNLI helmsman Andrew Stone said: It is important that anyone going to sea understands the risks and how to prepare for them. 

"A mobile telephone is no use when calling for help or in communicating with the rescue services."

The Weston station was established in 1882 at the request of the local inhabitants and moved into its current boathouse in 1902.

The RNLI is a charity manned by volunteers which provide a 24-hour search and rescue service in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland from 236 lifeboat stations, including four along the River Thames and inland lifeboat stations at Loch Ness, Lough Derg, Enniskillen and Lough Ree. 

Additionally the RNLI has more than 1,000 lifeguards on more than 180 beaches around the UK and operates a specialist flood rescue team, which can respond anywhere across the UK and Ireland when inland flooding puts lives at risk.

The RNLI relies on public donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. 

  •  Crew members of Weston-super-Mare RNLI were handed jubilee medals for their work for the lifesaving organisation. The medals were handed out to 17 crew members at the annual RNLI carol concert held at the Salvation Army Citadel in December.



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