Lifeboat crews save dozen lives in busiest year

Blackpol RNLI crews help rescue two people who were reported missing after setting out on jetskis last year.

Blackpol RNLI crews help rescue two people who were reported missing after setting out on jetskis last year.

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A dozen lives were saved by lifeboat crews on the Fylde coast last year following a surge in call-outs.

Blackpool RNLI was the busiest team in the North – and the 10th most in-demand across the UK – after launching 94 times in 2014.

Crews at the Fylde coast’s three lifeboat stations launched 172 times, rescuing 81 people and saving 12 lives.

Helmsman Shaun Wright, based at Blackpool, said: “The majority of our call-outs are in the middle of the night, when people have had a few drinks and decide to go for a swim.

“But we have also had a lot of boat-related call-outs – they are increasing over the year.”

The charity released figures for 2014 as it urged people to stay safe around water.

Mr Wright added: “It’s been a busy year with the weather, which does play a vital part in everything, as well as the Prom being finished.

“I would urge people to be mindful of the dangers and of their surroundings. You should never have a drink and go swimming.”

The figures show crews launched from Blackpool a total of 94 times and rescued 16 people, saving six lives.

Fleetwood and Lytham, which both have all-weather lifeboats, launched 52 and 26 times respectively, rescuing a combined 65 people.

Across the Fylde coast, call-outs were up by 20 compared to 2013, although 14 fewer people had to be rescued.

Mr Wright, who works as a train driver, paid tribute to all the volunteers involved in the effort, adding: “We have a big team in Blackpool. To launch all three boats you need around 20 people.

“We have to have very understanding employers.”

A good summer that saw an increase in people heading to the Fylde coast fuelled a steep rise in Lifeboat launches last year.

With many of the call-outs described as “avoidable” – including dog walkers cut off by the tide, stranded jetskiers and struggling swimmers – rescuers have called for people to be more aware of the dangers of the sea.

The Gazette launched its Think Sea Safety campaign following the death of 17-year-old David Sagar in 2012.

Last year, the RNLI followed suit and set up the 
Respect The Water campaign to help reduce the number of tragedies at sea.

Last year, lifeboat crews from Blackpool, Lytham and Fleetwood attended a range of incidents including:

– On May 17, two men failed to return to shore after setting out on jetskis. Rescuers said they had gone out with no radio equipment and their phones were not working. After an hour, the pair were found on a sandbank where they had run aground.

– Over the weekend of May 2 and 3, crews were called to three incidents. One woman got cut off by the tide near the Pleasure Beach, a man was struggling with the effects of the cold water near North Pier and a person jumped from the same pier the following day.

– In early April, crews attended three call-outs in four days after people got into difficulty after entering the water.

On each of those occasions, the casualties were brought ashore safely.