New Brighton RNLI volunteers recognised for challenging rescue

New Brighton RNLI volunteers have been recognised by the charity’s Chief Executive for their part in a difficult rescue of two teenagers cut off by the tide near Fort Perch Rock in July 2020.

RNLI volunteer crew member Mike Stannard has been awarded a Framed Letter of Thanks signed by the charity’s Chairman for his courageous actions in entering the water and helping both casualties swim to the safety of the lifeboat in difficult conditions.

For their individual courage, collective teamwork, and determination to rescue those in danger, a collective Framed Letter of Appreciation signed by the Chief Executive was awarded to the helm Mark Harding, crew members Emily Craven and Thomas McGinn, as well as volunteer Tractor Driver Michael Jones.

New Brighton RNLI volunteers were paged at 3.02pm on Sunday 28 July to assist two teenagers cut off by the tide on a groyne near Fort Perch Rock. The sea and wind conditions were testing with a west-south westerly force 6 strong breeze and a flooding tide. Initially Mike Stannard was to helm the lifeboat for the service, however after assessing the situation and conditions within the river it was decided that walking the casualties off the groyne would not be possible and the only way to assist them to safety would be by water. Mike, an ex-lifeguard, volunteered himself as the person to enter the water and swim both casualties from the groyne to the safety of the lifeboat. On this decision, Mark Harding took over the helm of the Atlantic 85 lifeboat.

The lifeboat arrived on scene at 3.15pm. Conditions were poor with water running along, through and over the groyne causing a confused and difficult surf for the volunteer crew to navigate.

As Mike collected lifejackets ready for the casualties, Mark carefully chose his moments between sets of breaking seas to manoeuvre the lifeboat parallel to the groyne; bringing the lifeboat within 10 metres of the casualties. Mike entered the water and swam to the casualties.

After fitting the first teenager with a lifejacket she was understandably scared as she couldn’t swim. Mike tried to keep her clam but as they prepared to jump, a two-meter sea broke through the groyne and the casualty was washed off her feet. Mike immediately helped her back up but she was shaken from the experience. At this point the assistant of the helicopter was requested.

As the teenager took a few minutes to calm down Mike noticed a break in the sea conditions. It was decided ‘now or never’; the RNLI volunteer jumped into the water and swam her to the safety of the lifeboat, where crewmembers Emily and Tom were ready to pull her onboard. Once the lifeboat was clear, Mike then swam back to the groyne for the second rescue.

Mike signalled for the lifeboat to return to the groyne. He entered the water and positioned the casualty face up on his back along his body, they swam out to the lifeboat where Tom and Emily were once again ready to pull the casualty onboard.

In less than 25 minutes of the service tasking, both casualties were safe on board the lifeboat. However, Mike still had one more swim to complete. At 3.26pm he swam to the lifeboat where Tom and Emily were waiting, ready to pull him out of the river onto the safety of the lifeboat.

With conditions still poor, the volunteers had one more challenging task to negotiate. As a normal recovery of the lifeboat onto the trailer was not possible, the crew had to perform a net recovery which involves driving the boat into the trailer on the back of a wave. The lifeboat is then ‘captured’ by a collapsing net – a recovery which requires true teamwork and skill between both helm and tractor driver. Once safely ashore, the casualties were handed over into the care of Ambulance Service.

Video of the rescue can be found here

Peter Rooney, RNLI Area Lifesaving Manager said, “On behalf of the RNLI I would like to congratulate the team at New Brighton on this challenging and physically demanding service.

“Mike Stannard displayed tremendous determination in very challenging conditions, repeatedly swimming between the groyne and the lifeboat in full personal protective equipment. He knowingly placed himself between the breaking seas and the casualties on the groyne to protect them from the conditions, and by doing so was placing himself in danger.

“The crew on the Atlantic 85 worked extremely hard recovering two casualties onto the safety of the lifeboat in difficult sea conditions. Marks Harding’s appreciation of the conditions and needs of the casualty meant that he repeatedly manoeuvred the lifeboat in and out of the danger area, placing the lifeboat alongside vulnerable casualties in the water and at times, in close proximity to the concrete structure.

“Thankfully both casualties were unharmed but if it wasn’t for the quick thinking, skill and bravery of the volunteer crew the outcome that day could have been very different.”

Image: Some of the New Brighton RNLI crew who have been recognised for their actions. From L-R Mark Harding, Mike Stannard, Thomas McGinn Credit: RNLI/Danielle Rush

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