Gallantry medal awarded to New Brighton RNLI volunteer

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) has awarded a Bronze gallantry medal and Framed Letters of Appreciation to RNLI New Brighton volunteers in recognition of the skill, determination and courage demonstrated in a rescue which saved the life of a man and a dog.

New Brighton RNLI helm, Michael Stannard was presented with the charity’s Bronze gallantry medal at St James’ Palace, London by HRH the Duke of Kent at the RNLI President’s Lunch on Friday 27 May.

Michael Stannard was presented the prestigious award in recognition of his boat handling skills, seamanship and courage during the demanding service in July 2020.

A Framed Letter of Appreciation signed by the charity’s Chief Executive and a Medal Service Certificate will also be awarded to volunteer crew members Oz Ramsey, Emily Craven and Thomas McGinn for their individual courage, collective teamwork and determination to save a life during the incident.

On 6 July 2020, a member of the public rushed into New Brighton Lifeboat Station reporting a person was in danger in the water. Ian Thornton, New Brighton volunteer Lifeboat Operations Manager was at the lifeboat station and immediately alerted HM Coastguard, Ian agreed for the volunteer crew to be paged.

Witnessing the challenging conditions, it was decided to request the launch of Hoylake RNLI all-weather lifeboat to support in the rescue attempt. The RNLI lifeguard team were also tasked to assist by HM Coastguard and rushed over to the location. As the lifeguards arrived to help, it was soon established that the conditions were too dangerous for the lifeguards to enter the water.

As the volunteer crew assembled, a man could be seen in the water near the lifeboat station holding onto a lifebuoy; further reports were also being received of another person in danger.

As the Atlantic 85 lifeboat with Helm Michael Stannard and volunteer crew Nelson Ramsey, Emily Craven and Thomas McGinn travelled to the launch site, it was confirmed by HM Coastguard that two people and a dog were in trouble. The lifeboat launched at 12.36pm at the upper limits of its capability with two-metre seas breaking through the carriage.

When the volunteer crew arrived on scene, a man was spotted five meters offshore near the sea wall. The Atlantic 85 lifeboat battled three to four metre breaking seas, with two knots flooding tide adding to the challenge by accelerating the speed of the water crashing into the sea wall.

Helm Stannard made the decision to bring the lifeboat as close to the casualty as he could by attempting recovery using a throwline. After quickly briefing the crew, he turned the lifeboat to port and made a run towards the seawall.

Breaking three metre waves from the North West challenged the first run as Stannard scanned the seas, ready to take advantage of the next available opportunity. On the third attempt, the Atlantic 85 was skilfully manoeuvred up to the casualty and a throwline was deployed.

The volunteer crew encouraged the casualty to grab hold of the throwline as crew members Tom McGinn and Emily Craven pulled the man towards the safety of the lifeboat. Helm Stannard had to immediately manoeuvre the Atlantic 85 back out to sea as the confused sea was pulling the lifeboat towards the sea wall.

Despite breaking seas on the bow and a four-metre backwash breaking over the lifeboat, the casualty was successfully pulled onboard by crew members McGinn and Ramsey. Although exhausted, the casualty confirmed that another person was also in the water.

Reports from the shore directed the volunteers towards the location of the second casualty. Arriving at the location the volunteers scanned the confused seas for the second person when a dog was spotted in the water, which was pulled onboard the lifeboat.

Onboard New Brighton lifeboat, the crew repositioned themselves in their seats within the lifeboat headed back out to sea whilst trying to establish the whereabouts of the female casualty. Emily Craven continued to monitor the condition of the man and reported to the helm that his condition was worsening.

At that point the RNLI volunteers were told that the woman was being assisted on the shore by rescue teams, which included the RNLI lifeguards, and no additional casualties were in the water. The Atlantic 85 lifeboat set course back to shore.

Knowing the conditions at the recovery site would be poor, Helm Stannard radioed ahead and asked for a net recovery to be arranged. At 12.53pm the lifeboat arrived back at the launch site, returning only twenty minutes after launching on service. The man was handed over to the care of the awaiting ambulance crew and was taken to hospital.

It was later established that the female casualty sadly lost her life during the tragic incident.

Peter Rooney, RNLI Area Lifesaving Manager said, “This was an extremely demanding call carried out in very challenging conditions, resulting in the saving of a life, and a dog. The lifeboat was operating at the upper limits of its weather capabilities in very shallow waters and with extremely limited sea room so close to the sea wall.

“The seas encountered were not uniform in direction, size or speed and the inability to safely hold the vessel in position for any length of time whilst attempting to reach the casualty demanded considerable amounts of manoeuvring.

“Helm Stannard maintained high levels of concentration to ensure the lifeboat and crew were kept as safe as possible throughout the rescue. Whilst formulating plans and directing the crew, he retained an awareness of the situation and appreciation of the ordeal the crew were enduring. A momentary lapse of concentration would have resulted in serious consequences to the crew and lifeboat.’

Ian Thornton, RNLI New Brighton Lifeboat Operations Manager adds, “Our thoughts at RNLI New Brighton are with the family that were involved in this very difficult service. As a crew, the volunteers always launch in the aim to save everyone; unfortunately, this isn’t always possible.

“The team of RNLI New Brighton are extremely proud of Michael, Oz, Thomas and Emily for the skill, determination and courage shown that day. Oz, Thomas and Emily performed their duties faultlessly and without hesitation.

“They worked together as a team and reacted to the requirements of the situation in a very timely manner, recovering a man and a dog from the water which was physically difficult, and demonstrable abundance of courage whilst working in a dangerous environment. They had total faith in the ability of Michael and utmost trust in the lifeboat. Without doubt, they saved the lives of the male casualty and the dog that day.”

Image: RNLI/Beaumont Photography

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