Author: Bob Warwick
RNLI New Brighton’s Atlantic 85 lifeboat B-837 ‘Charles Dibdin’ was launched in response to a report just before 7pm that several youths were in difficulty on the breakwater by Perch Rock Lighthouse, New Brighton
It was sunny evening and the breakwater was covered by the incoming 8 metre tide and close to high water. Two teenage girls were in the water towards the end of the breakwater and the alarm had been raised by members of the public.
The lifeboat had been rapidly launched from Victoria slipway with a crew of four on board and in addition the lifeboat stations 4×4 vehicle had proceeded to the plateau by Fort Perch rock where two of our volunteers Andy Liston and Paul Barlow in full lifeboat kit tried to make their way along the breakwater.
New Brighton’s Senior Helmsman Dave Lowe in charge of the lifeboat commented ‘ It took us only a few minutes from our launch to reach the area. The girls were in the water, clinging desperately to the rocks of the breakwater and in a very distressed state. We found that we could not approach from the lighthouse side of as there was insufficient depth of water. Our only option was to go around to the seaward side and put Helmsman Mike Plaskett went into the water to safeguard and reassure the girls and help with transferring them onto the lifeboat. It was difficult to see and maintain position beam on to the breakwater with the choppy sea which was causing the lifeboat to rise and and fall significantly with the swell and ensure no harm came to those in the water or damage the lifeboat. With difficulty we managed to haul the girls on board one at a time then recovered Mike. The girls had cuts to their legs and hands, were cold and very distressed, we wrapped them in blankets and returned straight onto the beach where our 4×4 along with Coastguard escort was waiting to speed them to the lifeboat station and awaiting paramedics. The girls told us that they had gone for a swim, been caught by the current and being swept out to sea. They just managed to grab a hold onto the rocks at the end of the breakwater, this probably saved their lives. On our way back to the station and passing Wetherspoons pub we received a cheer from the customers who had been watching the rescue from the balcony.’
Mike Plaskett after the rescue said ‘ I jumped into about 7 foot of water, it was difficult to gain and maintain footing on the breakwater rocks and I slipped several times. On reaching the distressed girls I did my best to calm and reassure them that they would be OK then assisted getting them into the lifeboat which proved quite difficult in the conditions’.
Meanwhile our men on the breakwater had come across a man in stuck part way along and helped him to safety, whether he was trying to reach the girls we do not know.
The girls were checked over at the lifeboat station by paramedics and then sent in an ambulance to Arrowe Park Hospital.
Lifeboat Operations Manager Graham Sale commented ‘ Teamwork, dedication and great seamanship were key features of the rescue which turned out well in the end. This could easily have ended in tragedy had their shouts for help not been heard in time. It is so important to understand the dangers of the sea shore in particular the tide times, currents and location of safe areas for bathing. The breakwater in this case was a lifesaver but normally an area to avoid. If you go into the water sea temperatures may not be as high as you may expect. Although the weather recently has been good average sea temperature for Liverpool area for June is only 13.4 C.’
The station has had a busy day with the lifeboat in support of a local regatta the morning during which a 24 ft yacht, not part of the regatta, with four people and a dog on board had a loss of power and steering and fortunately managed to attract the attention of the lifeboat as they found themselves drifting towards rocks east of the beach at New Brighton. The lifeboat managed to push them away to safety where the anchor was dropped. The problem due to a linkage failure was later resolved and they were able to proceed on their way.
At the same time this was happening the station had a visit from a Matt Hawkes who is fundraising for the RNLI through a anti clockwise round Britain tour of lifeboat stations on his distinctive RNLI coloured motor bike. His journey will take him 4500 miles in 34 days and stopping at 172 lifeboat stations which he started from Wells-next-the-Sea on 5th June.