New Quay RNLI crew awarded for rescuing rowers

RNLI storm arwen

The RNLI has announced six crew members from New Quay will each receive a letter of thanks from the RNLI chairman for answering a Mayday call to an ocean-going rowing boat in difficulty during storm Arwen. The news comes a year after the storm caused havoc around the UK coastline.

Coxswain Dan Potter, full-time mechanic Bernie Davies, navigator Simon Rigby and crew members on the day Rees-Tom Jones, Dylan Price and Huw Williams will all receive the accolade for their seamanship, resilience, determination and courage in rescuing three people from the vessel. The casualties – an Irish rowing team – have since returned to the station and thanked their rescuers, and made a donation.

The all-weather lifeboat was launched just after 8am on 26 November 2021 following reports that that the rowing boat had put out the highest emergency distress call 18 miles northwest of New Quay. The casualty vessel was a one-tonne 8.5 metre R45 Elite rowing boat, which had set off from Ireland for Aberystwyth earlier that day.

One crew member onboard the rowing boat had suffered a head injury, and was evacuated by Coastguard Rescue Helicopter 936, to be taken to hospital for medical attention.

New Quay lifeboat launched in force eight to nine winds from the northwest with rough seas, deteriorating in the preliminary stages of storm Arwen. From the information provided by the coastguard, it appeared the rowing boat had capsized, injuring the crew member. Barmouth lifeboat and the coastguard’s Rescue Helicopter 936 were on scene.

New Quay lifeboat arrived to find the rowing boat semi-submerged, listing at approximately 90 degrees, with three people onboard.

New Quay lifeboat proceeded towards the casualty vessel, with a crew member equipped in a dry suit to evacuate the three people to the lifeboat. When going alongside the casualty vessel that was still listing at approximately 90 degrees, the lifeboat crew observed one of the casualties waving from inside one of the cabins, with the water level up to the windows. They were very concerned the rowing boat might turn over, or sink.

RNLI volunteer crew member Simon Rigby clipped onto the rail and leaned over the side of the lifeboat. Two casualties immediately exited from one cabin and started to swim towards the lifeboat and were quickly pulled on board. The third casualty exited from the second cabin, struggling to swim, and had failed to inflate his lifejacket. He was tiring and his head was disappearing beneath the water.

Crewman Rigby was able to grab him and hold his head above water. By this time, the casualty was unable to help himself, but he was held until other crew on deck could assist and pull him onto the lifeboat.

The chairman’s letter of thanks is an RNLI gallantry awards recognising one-off instances of bravery, courage and endeavour. The awards will be presented to the New Quay crew at a later date.

Storm Arwen facilitated many acts of heroism from the RNLI.

A lifeboat crew from Tynemouth battled six-metre waves for 18 hours to rescue six fishermen on a 100-tonne fishing vessel. The 14-metre fishing vessel had suffered total engine failure in the midst of the storm 70 miles out to sea. Drifting helplessly, a call for help was made and the Tynemouth RNLI all-weather lifeboat launched.

Marinas, shipyards and coastal communities reported unprecedented levels of damage.

Main image courtesy of RNLI and Claire Elshaw. Portrait photos courtesy of RNLI and Nathan Williams.

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