Wedding Service

Ilfracombe RNLI volunteers called from wedding of crew member to save six

Ilfracombe RNLI volunteers were called away from a wedding yesterday afternoon (Thursday, October 28) to rescue three adults and three children stranded on a beach.

Volunteer crew members lined up with oars at the wedding of Ashley Witcombe, a volunteer crew, and his wife Cheryl. The photos had just been taken when pagers disrupted the occasion.

Class D inshore lifeboat Deborah Brown III was instructed by the coast guard at around 3:20 p.m. to a group of six people who had become stranded on a small beach near Lee Bay, three miles west of Ilfracombe. The group was paddleboarding and kayaking when they got stuck in the conditions.

The lifeboat was launched with Leigh Hanks at the helm and crew members Sophie Braund and Kim Jeffs. The volunteers took about seven minutes to arrive at the scene.

The conditions were a southerly force 5-6, with an overwhelming swell of two meters, preventing the group from leaving the beach.

Leigh maneuvered Class D and performed a “turn” technique, where the anchor is deployed and the boat goes astern in the waves, using the anchor to keep the boat stable. Sophie’s volunteer crew went ashore to check on the injured, who were thankfully all unharmed.

When there was a hole in the shore break, Sophie guided three of the victims through the waves to Class D, and the anchor was retrieved as the lifeboat headed out to sea. The injured were taken to Lee Bay and handed over to the care of the local Coast Guard team. The volunteer crew then repeated the same maneuver to recover the three remaining wounded and reunite them at Lee Bay.

All the victims were unharmed, although a little cold and damp. The volunteers returned to the station around 4:30 p.m. a little wet in the waves, and the lifeboat was prepared for service. A few hours later, the volunteers were back afloat for their weekly training exercise.

Leigh said conditions had been particularly difficult: “Here in Ilfracombe we are sheltered from the southerly wind but we are not immune to the swells, and that is what made conditions difficult yesterday, in blocking this group on the beach, they did the right thing, not trying to escape but waiting for help to arrive.

“As conditions become more and more difficult and unpredictable during the fall months, it is really important that people be extra careful if they are considering entering the water.

“We hope the pagers haven’t disrupted Ashley and Cheryl’s special day too much, although I’m sure it’s something they’re both used to. This isn’t the first time pagers have sounded at a crew wedding, and I’m sure it won’t be the last!

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Notes to Editors

Attached is a picture of the crew (Leigh front left) at Ashley and Cheryl’s wedding.

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For more information, contact Emma Haines, RNLI Regional Media Officer, on 07786 668847 or [email protected] or the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789.

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The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a round-the-clock search and rescue service around the coasts of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. The RNLI operates 238 lifeguard stations in the UK and Ireland and over 240 lifeguard units on beaches in the UK and the Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent from the Coast Guard and the government and depends on voluntary donations and bequests to maintain its rescue service. Since the founding of the RNLI in 1824, its crews and rescuers have saved more than 142,700 lives.

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