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Ilfracombe RNLI launched to rescue kayakers.

Lifeboats News Release

Both Ilfracombe RNLI lifeboats were launched yesterday (Saturday 4 May) to rescue a group of kayakers who had got into difficulties in bad weather in Combe Martin Bay.

Inshore lifeboat and crew with kayaker making way to beach

Photo: RNLI

Ilfracombe RNLI ILB takes kayaker to safety

The volunteer crews launched the Ilfracombe RNLI Shannon class all-weather lifeboat Stormrider at just after 5.00 p.m. following reports that a number of kayakers had capsized and were in the water near Combe Martin.

The inshore lifeboat (ILB) The Deborah Brown II was launched a few minutes later. Although the day was sunny, weather out at sea had deteriorated during the afternoon and sea conditions in Combe Martin Bay were rough with the combination of high spring tides and force 6 (25-30 mph) north westerly winds driving steep 3 metre waves.

The alert was raised by the owner of a local kayak hire firm who was out leading a kayaking trip with a colleague and a group of clients when he saw a number of kayakers get into difficulties. He used his radio to send a Mayday alert and also sent his colleague ashore to dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard.

The Mayday call was heard by Ilfracombe sea safari vessel the Lundy Explorer, a 10m rigid inflatable boat (RIB) which was close by in the bay. The crew of the Lundy Explorer, one of whom is also a member of the Ilfracombe RNLI volunteer crew, used their mobile phone to raise the alarm.

The Lundy Explorer then responded to the Mayday and were first on scene. The crew of the Lundy Explorer saw two people in the water holding onto a kayak. The people were in distress and cold having been in the water for over 30 minutes and were taken on board. The Lundy Explorer then stayed on scene and the crew provided reassurance to the other kayakers that the lifeboat was on its way.

The Stormrider Shannon class all-weather lifeboat arrived on scene five minutes later and found a kayaker in the water holding on to the back of a kayak with a person on-board. One of the volunteer crew was deployed and entered the water and swam to the casualty to reassure and assist them. The lifeboat then manoeuvered alongside and was able to lift the casualty on-board using the A frame hoist. The crew member was then recovered back onto the lifeboat.

A second kayaker was then seen in distress lying on their back on a kayak being buffeted by the large waves. The all-weather lifeboat drew up as close as they could to the female kayaker and the volunteer crew member was again deployed and swam to assist her and was able to pull her in close to the lifeboat where she was lifted aboard and the kayak also taken on-board. Both casualties were extremely cold having been in the water for over 20 minutes without wetsuits and were taken into the wheelhouse to be assessed and to warm up.

The Deborah Brown II ILB also arrived on scene and went to the assistance of another kayaker who was struggling in the waves and strong current. The kayaker and the kayak were taken onboard and were taken onto Combe Martin beach where they were safely taken onshore. Five other kayakers managed to make it ashore without the assistance of the lifeboats.

Once the situation was under control and it was clear that there were no other kayakers at risk the two casualties were taken from the Lundy Explorer onto the all-weather lifeboat. Both lifeboats returned to the station at 6.00 p.m. where the casualties were taken ashore and treated by paramedics for hypothermia. No further medical assistance was required and the casualties were able to return home a short while later.

One of the casualties said: 'It was so cold and the water was crazy. I just want to say a huge thank you to the RNLI, its amazing that these guys are all volunteers’.

Andrew Benjey, RNLI Volunteer Coxswain for Ilfracombe’s RNLI Lifeboat, said: ‘When the lifeboat arrived on scene we could see a group of about ten kayakers, which we subsequently discovered were from different groups, struggling in the large waves and strong winds. Apparently a couple of people got into difficulties and other kayakers came over to help and then got into difficulty themselves. The sea conditions were very rough and we would urge people to check the weather before setting out to sea on kayaks or other crafts.

'The situation today could have been a lot worse if people had not been wearing buoyancy aids which certainly helped keep people alive today. We would also advise people to wear wetsuits at this time of year as although the weather can be sunny the sea temperatures are still cold, and if you capsize into cold water even in summer it is still possible to get cold water shock.

'It’s important to remember to float to survive and to stay with your kayak or board as this will not only help to keep you afloat but also make you easier to see. We would also recommend people take a mobile phone in a waterproof bag or other means of raising the alarm. It was fortunate today that the kayakers were seen by a member of the public out on the water who had a radio to call for help.

We would also like to recognise the the crew of the Lundy Explorer were of great assistance today and helped the RNLI in their work to save lives at sea.'

Notes to editors

RNLI media contacts

For more information please telephone Paula Kingdon, RNLI Volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer on 07786 433744 or paula_kingdon@rnli.org.uk or Emma Haines, Press Officer (South) on 07786 668847 or emma_haines@rnli.org.uk or contact RNLI Media and Public Relations on 01202 336789

RNLI online

For more information on the RNLI please visit rnli.org. News releases and other media resources, including RSS feeds, downloadable photos and video, are available at the RNLI News Centre rnli.org/news-and-media.

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824 its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,200 lives.

Ilfracombe RNLI ILB and ALB at sea heading to Combe Martin Bay

RNLI

Ilfracombe RNLI lifeboats heading to Combe Martin bay

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

Learn more about the RNLI

For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or or by email.

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