Busy year for region’s heroic lifeboat crews

IN what proved to be a dramatic 12 months for local lifeboat crews, they rescued a total of 70 people between them according to the RNLI’s 2010 figures released this week.

Crews at Scotland’s 45 lifeboat stations rescued 921 people, including 89 under-18s, during the year. There were 1012 launches, slightly down on 2009, which was the RNLI’s busiest year in Scotland but the number of people rescued increased.

The busiest RNLI lifeboat station in Scotland was Queensferry, near Edinburgh, with 74 launches. The crew also rescued the highest number of people. But crews close to home were also kept busy and were on hand to deal with some important callouts, one of which shocked the whole of the east coast last summer.

Over the past year Dunbar lifeboat launched 41 times, while Eyemouth and St Abbs launched 14 and 12 times respectively, but one of the most tragic incidents for crews of all three stations was a collision three and a half miles north of St Abbs, between a ferry and a prawn trawler on August 5.

The vessel, ‘Homeland’ sunk after colliding with the ‘Scottish Viking’ which was en route to Zeebruge from Rosyth.

One of the fishermen, Joseph McNeill, was found safe and well but unfortunately despite the best efforts of the local crews and their colleagues from Berwick lifeboat, their search for his brother Daniel, which also involved 15 fishing boats and a rescue helicopter from RAF Boulmer, was in vain.

A body was found in November and confirmed as Daniel’s a few weeks later.

The bravery of crews in the area saw 70 people rescued last year with Dunbar lifeboat crew rescuing 39 people, Eyemouth Lifeboat rescuing 7 and St Abbs 14.

There was a baptism of fire for Dunbar’s new deputy coxwain, Jamie Lamb in June when he took the lifeboat through near gale force winds and high seas to go to the aid of a yacht in difficulty off the East Lothian coast.

On his first night on duty, Jamie and his two crew mates, Stuart Pirrie and Jamie Forrester rescued two people aboard the Explorer who had become disorientated in mountainous waves suffering from severe sea sickness.

The crew were able to get alongside the boat for just enough time to get the man and woman off the boat, before taking them to Anstruther for treatment.

Dunbar RNLI coxswain Gary Fairbairn paid tribute to his young assistant after the rescue and local lifeboat volunteers have also come in for praise from Jim Hume MSP who commented: “Over the years, lifeboat crew members in St Abbs and Eyemouth have been awarded several gallantry medals, which is testament to their life saving bravery. RNLI crews are not only vital because of their life saving work, but they’re also symbolic of the close relationship between coastal communities and the sea.”

Notable incidents for Berwickshire lifeboat crews in 2010 included Eyemouth lifeboat going to the rescue of an elderly man who had fallen off his pleasure boat into the sea and St Abbs lifeboat being called on to help some coastguards who were rescuing a 33 year old woman who had fallen down a cliff.

SOS Day, the RNLI’s annual fundraising event takes place tomorrow, Friday January 28.