Oct 31, 2016

Hovercraft search for persons on sandbank in thick fog

Hoylake RNLI were called out on the night of Halloween to search for persons heard shouting for help in dense fog on the North Wirral coast. UK Coastguard requested the assistance of the hovercraft at 6.22pm after several 999 calls were made by members of the public who were concerned after hearing shouts for help from the sandbanks near the old Derby Pool site at Harrison Drive. Two persons were located a short distance from the embankment and returned to shore. A further group of five people managed to find their way ashore shortly afterwards.

The hovercraft was launched in darkness and in thick swirling fog to search along the shoreline and across the sandbanks to ensure no other persons were still on the beach. Information from Wirral Coastguard Rescue Team officers on scene suggested that the persons lost in the fog could be a group of five cocklers who were not believed to have any knowledge of the very dangerous local conditions.

The four crew of the hovercraft made a thorough search of the foreshore and sandbanks in very difficult conditions, liaising with the local Coastguard. Due to the visibility being down to 5 metres at times, the hovercraft stopped its engines on two occasions and the crew listened for any replies to their loudhailer calls to attract the attention of anyone lost in the dark and foggy conditions. Once the search had been completed and following information from the Coastguard that a number of persons had safely come ashore, the hovercraft was stood down at 7.20pm and returned to Hoylake Lifeboat Station.

Dave Whiteley, Hoylake RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager, said he was grateful to those members of the public who raised the alarm by dialling 999: “They did the right thing and did not put themselves at risk. It is extremely dangerous to venture out on to the sandbanks without local knowledge. These people went out onto the banks in the dark, in thick fog and with a rising tide. They were very lucky to come ashore alive. If you want to explore the sandbanks, find out when and where it is safe to go from local RNLI lifeboat stations or lifeguards, Coastguards, sailing clubs or fishermen. Look for warning notices and follow the advice. Don’t risk your life and the lives of those who may be called on to rescue you.”


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When RNLI lifeboats are tasked to a rescue this is commonly referred to as a 'shout'.

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