Documentary series following the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. In Bangor, crew are tasked to find two teenage paddleboarders blown offshore towards nearby shipping lanes.
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We're an island nation, drawn to the sea that surrounds us.
For many, it's a playground.
For others, it's where we earn our living.
But the sea's unpredictable...
..and can change in an instant.
And when accidents happen, they happened very fast.
The sea is a dangerous place.
If you don't respect the sea, the sea will bite you.
There to save our lives is a volunteer army
of nearly 5,000 ordinary people ready to leave their jobs,
their families, to race to our rescue.
It makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up
to know that, if it wasn't for you, that person wouldn't be here.
They rescued me, but they also saved a mum, daughter, sister, a wife.
Oh, my gosh.
To see someone disappear under the water right in front of you...
..is brutal. It's absolutely horrendous.
Equipped with their own cameras...
It is my light flashing?
..the crews give us a unique insight into every call-out
as only they see it.
-Right, there's another little wave.
Speeding through the roughest weather,
searching for people who may only have moments to live.
Can you still hear me?
For those who risk their lives,
it has become a way of life.
When those pagers go off, it's life and death.
A sunny spring day on Belfast Lough on the coast of the Irish Sea.
The volunteers at Bangor get a call for help.
The Coastguard has received several 999 calls from members of the public
concerned about a group of paddleboarders
being blown out to sea.
As the crew ready to launch, word comes in that they're teenage girls.
I think the atmosphere changes considerably
when the shout is for children.
-OK, all clear.
I've got three young children myself and, as a dad,
I couldn't think of anything worse than my child being lost at sea,
so it's a real focus of... "Get that boat in the water,
"get it launched and get round there and get searching."
The crew gun their B-class Atlantic lifeboat
to its top speed of 35 knots.
They're racing the wind that's blowing off the land
and taking the girls with it.
An offshore wind is when the wind blows from the land to the sea.
So the sea can look calm,
but as that wind picks up further out to sea,
then it starts to get rough.
We knew the area that we had to go to,
but because it was an offshore wind,
and it was a particularly strong offshore wind,
they were actually being blown directly out
into the Irish Sea, into the shipping channel.
The two 14-year-old girls
are heading into the only passage for ships into Belfast...
..the busiest port in Northern Ireland.
Belfast Lough is particularly busy with shipping activity.
You have main shipping links with Belfast to Scotland,
Belfast to Isle of Man and Belfast to Liverpool,
as well as cruise ships that come in, so there are large ships around.
They do come in quite closely.
Commercial vessels and ferries and things like that
will come in and out pretty much right down the middle of the lough.
Bigger ships and container ships and things
would come in to shelter as well, if it's stormy out in the Irish Sea,
so it's quite a busy lough.
A paddleboard in the shipping lane could be...
you know, worst-case scenario.
Now it's a race to find the girls and hope the lifeboat reaches them
before a larger ship does.
They are small.
They may not get seen by the passing ships.
It doesn't bear thinking about what might happen if...
if a ship didn't see them.
Half-a-mile out from where the teenagers left shore,
they spot a sailing dinghy.
It's stopped next to the girls,
waiting with them until help arrives.
How many are there of you?
-Yeah, just the two.
Do you want to let the Coastguard know?
Bring them on board.
-Are you bringing them into Ballyholme, over?
Yeah. Are you girls all right?
-Sure? Not too cold?
-No, we're fine.
-OK, we're going to go and pick up your paddleboard.
We're rescued, I'm going to laugh.
The crew confirms the girls are the missing teenagers, Jenni and Beth.
Although cold, wet and shaken,
they are otherwise OK and can be returned to the yacht club
where they started out on what was meant to be an afternoon
messing about on the water.
We were having a laugh, pushing each other off, like,
having a good swim around.
One person would stand on and the other person would, like, shake it.
Oh, it was class.
We just weren't paying attention and started drifting.
When we tried to get back, it was just not working at all.
The wind was pushing against us.
Kind of like the current and the wind against us.
It was like when we were pushing, it was pulling us back even more,
-so it was, like, "Oh, no."
There's a paddleboard there, just on our nose.
INTERVIEWER: What area of the water were you effectively in?
Like, in the...
-Like, in the ship...
The shipping channel.
We could see the Stena Line.
Yeah, the Stena Line passed us.
We were worried in case we got, like, really close to it
that we got caught in the propellers,
but that was just me overthinking things.
That was the hard part, not having...
-Did you get it?
-We saw the RIB going past.
-We didn't think it was coming to us
and then they came over to us, we were like, "Hi."
We just kind of looked at each other and, like, "Oh-ho, here we go.
"We're in trouble. Is it that bad?"
I don't think they realised the danger they were in.
We picked the girls out of the water and put them into the boat.
Within seconds, the paddleboard was quite some distance
away from the boat, so they don't realise
how quickly they were moving away from the shore.
The Coastguard want one of your parents' mobile numbers just so...
It was a very calm day. It was sunny.
I would have said there would have been a light breeze here.
It certainly wasn't a strong breeze.
They thought it was perfect conditions for them
to go and try out this paddleboarding,
which they had never actually done before.
The Coastguard wants to just make sure
that you're handed over to your parents all right.
She came home later on in the afternoon
and all she said was that they had been out in the water
and they went out a bit too far and a boat had brought them in,
but she didn't tell me what the actual boat was.
-Get yourselves out and get a hot shower.
We didn't think it was that bad
and then we got home and our parents were like, "Yous could've died!"
"You could have, like, ended up in a different country."
I was, like, "Oh, OK."
-All received, thanks very much.
-When I found out what really happened,
this awful feeling just came in and I thought, "Oh, my goodness."
Like, you know, "That's horrendous."
Really, like, it was a full-scale rescue, you could say.
Right, make this one quick, here.
I was just completely horrified
and just thought what could've went wrong.
Right, quick as you can.
So thankful, like, for them actually coming.
I didn't think they would come for such a small thing,
-but apparently it's not that small!
Right, everybody sitting comfortably?
-We're taking her back to Bangor.
200 miles away, on the Welsh side of the Bristol Channel...
..Porthcawl's first lifeboat station was built in 1860.
Bee's dad joined the crew in the 1970s.
Quick, quick, quick.
Six members of his family would go on to follow
in his yellow-wellied footsteps,
including Bee himself.
Got to back it in, ready for a call-out, haven't we?
Nana Mia has seen her kids and now grandkids join the crew.
He's the only one who appreciates my cooking!
Oh, hey, hang on.
My husband's always had boats,
so they grew up on boats, sort of thing,
and then the lifeboat, your father joined first, didn't he?
-Then they started.
Then my other daughter, she joined very young.
She was one of the first females, wasn't she?
So you've got your two daughters involved.
And it was the four grandchildren, but Frankie now lives in Sweden,
so she's a long way to come for a shout!
I grew up around the lifeboat station and, you know,
we were just completely wrapped up in it.
There was no time for anything else, was there, really?
I used to lay the table up in there
and it would all be ready for the meal. I'd go in and say...
And I'd look around, they'd all gone!
There'd been a shout and nobody bothered to tell me!
So that happened a couple of times so then I decided, no,
they were going to have sandwiches.
So as they go out through the door on a shout,
I hand them sandwiches to eat on the way!
He's got to know the sound of the pager now.
So, as soon as the pager goes off,
he's running to the front door as well,
so I've got to jump over the dog to get to the car before he does.
There we are!
On a warm afternoon at the end of July,
the Porthcawl crew are called out.
A local fisherman has called the Coastguard
after seeing a kayaker in trouble.
We're told that it's a person in the water, it's a kayaker,
and he's fallen from his kayak and he's...
he's in quite a bit of difficulty.
The emergency caller has given little information.
The crew have been told to head for Ogmore-by-Sea,
a rocky bay three miles from Porthcawl.
It was a nice day.
It was sunny but there was a really, really strong easterly wind.
The sea conditions, they were choppy.
If I'm being thrown about on the lifeboat
and the lifeboat is being lifted out of the water,
what's going on with the casualty?
Where are they? How are they coping?
You have to consider what that person may do.
They may think the best thing for them is to abandon their kayak
and try and swim,
but then you also think,
there may be a medical reason why this person
can't get back into the vessel.
So, all of that is going through your mind
in a very short period of time.
The crew reach the search area in less than ten minutes.
The kayaker is nowhere to be seen.
Trying to find a kayaker in the sea...
The saying "a needle in a haystack" doesn't do it justice.
You're definitely going to incidents like that blind.
Unless the Coastguard still has contact with the first informant...
..the information could be quite sketchy.
We were speaking to the coastguards constantly,
trying to find out more information.
Whereabouts might he be?
Might well be drifting towards Porthcawl.
It wasn't until we got a good 300 metres from him
that we were able to see him.
As soon as we saw him, it was very obvious
that he needed help and he needed it quick.
Ogmore Deep is notorious for its steep, sharp limestone cliff wall,
rising up along the shoreline.
The casualty's position,
being close to rocks and what behind is a small cliff face,
there was no real way out for him.
There are caves and you wouldn't want to think what would happen
if somebody got drawn into those.
And conditions are also increasingly dangerous for the lifeboat.
As we're getting closer to the rocks,
we're getting to quite shallow depths.
You could risk running the boat into the rocks.
All right, mate?
Yeah. Couldn't get back on.
Couldn't get back? Yeah.
-Here we go. All right?
We'll drag this over now. All right?
Thanks very much.
When I got to him, he said thank you...
I don't know, I can't remember how many times,
but several times, he kept saying, "Thank you, thank you."
There we go. Boys have got you.
You can tell when people have just had enough,
exhausted and really just wanting on a boat that floats!
Stay where you are, OK?
We don't want you to do anything, all right?
-Lay it across the stern.
-Yeah, across the back.
Once he's in the boat, there's a couple of key questions
you need to ask before we can relax.
"Are you on your own? Is there anybody else?"
We need to make sure that there isn't somebody else
in a similar situation, or in a worse situation.
Today, there is someone else involved.
The kayaker reveals he wasn't alone.
He was out with his son.
-He got ahead of you and you couldn't catch him?
But when he capsized, he lost sight of his son's kayak
and has no idea where he is now.
When you find out that there's a second person involved,
that then becomes quite a serious incident.
I think, just on the side of caution,
if one's got into difficulty...
..we would make the initial assumption
that the other may be in difficulty as well
and we would need to start searching for them.
As the crew raise the alarm, an update comes in from the Coastguard.
The kayaker's son has been found safe on shore.
People do underestimate the sea.
It can really look quite nice and appealing.
And it's not until you're out there and in a situation that you realise
how unforgiving and how relentless it can be.
Sometimes people just get caught out and he's one of those people.
For the 30 volunteers at Porthcawl,
as for many around the UK and Ireland,
their fellow volunteers become more than just shipmates.
When you go into the situations that we go into...
..you come to get to know people very, very well.
It's just a family, that's the only way you can describe it.
Does anybody want the one with or without the hair?
We're a close bunch of guys.
We deal with issues inside and outside of the station,
whether it be personal, family or lifeboat matters.
We are there for each other.
It's more than just boats
and call-outs and exercises.
We're a huge family.
Quite quickly, you become very well gelled,
which is actually really special in a way that I don't think
I've ever had with any other group of people,
just knowing that, in some situations,
my life will be in someone else's hands
when they're holding on to the back of my life jacket, kind of thing.
Spoon? Have you found your chicken tikka, mate?
It's gone out on the table.
As a helm, you're responsible for
the lives of your crew, as well as your own.
You feel protective.
They have family at home. We know the family history.
As a helm, you make sure that you're bringing the boat back,
you're bringing the crew back.
When you were trying to lift him over the D-class
and that wave came and lifted the D-class up and you were like, "Oh!"
We've all got different backgrounds, different jobs.
It's not easy sometimes but I know that if I get on that boat,
they've got my back.
Spread across 238 stations around the UK and Ireland,
there are 408 lifeboats ready to launch at a moment's notice.
From the manoeuvrability inshore D-class,
to the latest £2.2 million all-weather Shannon,
ten different classes of boat
all have their own unique life-saving capabilities.
But the odd one out in the family isn't a boat at all.
There are four rescue hovercraft stationed around the UK in areas
where tidal mudflats or sand mean the surface is too soft
for vehicles and the water too shallow for more conventional craft.
Nowhere is the terrain better suited to the hovercraft
than here on the north coast of Norfolk, at Hunstanton.
The tide can probably go out half a mile to a mile and you get a lot of
exposed sand bars and mudflats and marshes and areas like that
and obviously you can't get a boat there cos there's no water,
so the hovercraft is perfectly suited to be able to fly in,
land there and help.
It's a unique craft and especially handy
when people get stuck on sand banks and stuff like that.
We can drive straight up to them instead of the boat having to go
and beach on the sandbank and then walk across to them.
I was very sceptical at the start of the hovercraft.
To me, it wasn't normal,
being able to float from land to sea and sea to land.
Over the years, probably about half and half are jobs
done by the boat and the hovercraft so, yeah, it's proved its worth.
The hovercraft at Hunstanton, also known as the Hunstanton Flyer,
demonstrated its value four years ago when the crew were called out
on a job they still talk about today.
The initial report we had was three people cut off by the tide
on Scolt Head Island.
We've been there hundreds of times over the years.
It was just a run-of-the-mill shout.
Eight miles east of Hunstanton lies Scolt Head Island.
Despite its name, at low tide,
it's possible to walk across mudflats
to the four-mile expanse of sand dunes.
It only truly becomes an island as the tide rises.
There's a wreck which a lot of people go out at low water
to have a look at, and then get caught that side of the channel.
So we just assumed they were on the other side, on the sandbank.
But, after they launch,
the Coastguard radios with an urgent update.
The next report was that the people had tried to swim
and were clinging to a buoy.
Literally, like changing gear on a bike,
the situation changed immediately.
Three sisters - a 20-year-old and 12-year-old twins -
were trying to wade across the deep, fast-flowing channel
between Scolt Head and the mainland.
Out of their depth and caught by the current,
they'd been left clinging for their lives to a buoy.
These people are hanging on the buoy..
..and the water is ripping past them.
It would take some strength to hang on,
so we knew we had to be there quickly.
once they let go of that buoy, then, you know,
they'd be under the water and gone.
With a top speed of 30 knots,
the Flyer takes just over 25 minutes to get the crew on the scene.
But, as they arrive, two of the sisters lose their grip on the buoy.
From having one group of casualties, shall we say, all of a sudden,
we've got two. Two are being swept down the tide quite rapidly...
..and one's still clinging to the buoy.
And we don't know how long she was going to cling for.
With all three girls in immediate danger, the crew have to act fast.
Michael jumps in to get the 12-year-old clinging to the buoy.
The others try and pick up the other twin and her 20-year-old sister.
The crew pull Molly, the first 12-year-old twin, onboard.
When I was clinging on to the buoy,
I just felt like I was going to die.
I kept going in my head, "I'm going to die, this is my last time."
Zoe's our older sister,
so she was sort of trying to protect us,
but she was just so weak that she just lost her grip
so I could either hold back onto the buoy and lose Zoe
or just let go, so I let go of the buoy and was just holding Zoe up.
The water was just carrying us away from the buoy and Daisy,
it was, like, pummelling us and it was bruising us and hurting us.
I just thought, "This is it. We're done."
Zoe and Molly's twin, Daisy, are still in the water.
My sister! Zoe!
My sister! Please, my sister!
I was just screaming at this time, saying,
"Daisy, she's still over there, she's still over there."
That's my twin, Daisy! That's my twin...
Me and Daisy have always been a unit, been together.
Molly and Daisy, Daisy and Molly.
Daisy! Where's Daisy?!
It was such a scary thought,
thinking that one of us could live and one of us could die.
Get Daisy! Get Daisy!
The crew finally get 20-year-old Zoe on board the hovercraft.
The two sisters safe in the lifeboat
have no idea if Daisy managed to hold on to the buoy.
Or if Michael, swimming against the current,
has been able to reach her.
I just remember thrashing the water as hard as I could,
against the tide, to the girl.
It was probably only about 10 feet, perhaps 15 feet.
But it seemed to me to be like an Olympic swimming pool.
I got close enough, grabbed the girl's hand.
She let go and sort of clung herself onto me.
I remember grabbing hold of him and it just felt amazing
because I knew at that point that I was going to make it.
Another crew member reached out his hand and he pulled me up
and then Molly was already on there,
and so it was another wave of relief that she was OK, too.
I did sigh a big relief
because I was so shattered after trying to swim against the tide.
Yeah, I was...
I was very, very glad to be picked up.
All three sisters are safe onboard.
Even just a few seconds later,
it could have been a very different outcome.
It was just pure joy that they was safe and they was with me and...
..I wasn't the only survivor.
My sisters were all together, I felt safe and happy in their presence.
If the RNLI had got there later...
..definitely me and Zoe would have died.
Daisy may have managed a bit longer.
But me and Zoe, without an aid, in the current...
Any longer, I think we'd have been gone.
-You're tired? How long had you been hanging on there?
I don't know. It might not have been that long
but it seemed like forever.
She did remarkably well to hang on for as long as she did.
It must have been superhuman strength to,
you know, knowing you've got your sisters with you.
You brought them out on a day out and this has happened,
you know, you would hang on for dear life.
Don't worry, you're doing fine.
Easy does it. Gentle as you like.
I think you relate to your own children and grandchildren.
what would you do if something happened to them?
Keep your blanket on, keep nice and warm.
It is one of the calls that...
..is stuck with me all the time, and will be forever.
Yeah, it was so close.
For volunteers, call-outs involving kids can be the most harrowing.
But for Hunstanton crew member Michael, that's now become the norm.
His own son, Ryan, has joined the crew.
We really spent most of our childhood down here,
playing in the sand, burying each other, all sorts.
Then sort of learning about the sea.
I don't think he had the option of wanting to join -
he was going to join from probably the age of...
probably about a few days when he first came here.
-It was in his blood.
-The salt in my veins!
Ryan is keeping alive a long family tradition of lifeboating.
Mum's dad, Grandad Alan,
he was the original senior helmsman when they set up in 1979.
Dad's on the crew, my auntie helps out in the shop with my mum.
Mum runs our shop, she's the manageress of the shop here.
-Yeah, my girlfriend is on the crew with us.
-You forgot your girlfriend!
It's a big part of our family life, isn't it, really?
We put a lot of time into it.
-Is he, like, still your baby?
No, he's not my baby in the slightest. He's...
He's my son. If he's on the crew, he's part of the crew.
He doesn't get any...
Doesn't change, does it?
Not at all, you jump on the boat,
sit on the seat and you expect him to do his job,
as with any other of the crew.
Obviously years ago, we used to sit and make sand castles together.
-Now we go to the pub and have a pint instead.
On the south-west coast of Wales,
Tenby has been a popular tourist destination
since the early 19th century.
When the Napoleonic Wars prevented the upper classes
from embarking on grand tours of Europe,
resorts and bathing establishments suitable for the highest in society
sprang up closer to home.
But the unspoiled beaches and sheltered harbours
belie the dangerous waters that make Tenby lifeboat station
one of the busiest in Wales.
Tenby's on the West Coast of Wales, right on the end of nowhere.
It's not the end of the world but you can see it from here.
250 miles of coastline, most of it is cliffs,
so obviously with us working and the Coastguard,
we get a lot of calls together.
A sunny day in late October. The unseasonable weather
has brought out walkers along the local clifftops.
A couple have made a frantic 999 call.
Their dog has slipped from the path
and fallen over 80 feet into the water below.
The Coastguard has called out the Tenby crew.
This Labrador had survived the fall but was paddling around in the water
and they said this dog was getting lower and lower in the water
and there's a lot of people looking over the cliff,
and families watching this poor dog...
dying, basically, drowning in the water.
LAUNCH HORN BLOWS
We're not out there to launch and save dogs.
We're out there to save lives at sea, meaning human lives,
but when they started saying there were people getting very close
to the edge of the cliff and other people looking to enter the water,
that's when a lot of people drown.
-The cross grid reference is 994 953.
The name of the dog is Spice. I say again - Spice. Over.
The Tenby crew are equipped with an all-weather Tamar-class lifeboat,
one of the most sophisticated in the fleet.
And with a top speed of 25 knots, they arrive in under ten minutes.
Where is the dog?
But with a big swell running under the cliff face,
even their state-of-the-art lifeboat doesn't have the manoeuvrability
to get into where the dog was last seen.
Fortunately, the Tenby crew have a secret weapon under their deck.
The Y-boat is an inflatable lifeboat
designed for rescues in the parts that other lifeboats can't reach.
Matthew and Andrew are sent in to search the bay.
In that cove there?
My initial thoughts were,
there's no chance that a dog
is going to survive an 80- to 90-foot drop.
I was a little bit apprehensive, just because I have a pet myself
and I didn't really want to see another animal in distress or dead.
You just prepare yourself for the worst.
Onlookers are still peering down over the edge of the cliff.
There were people pointing and shouting.
They were beckoning us down to where they could see the dog.
Down in there?
In that cove there?
Oh, there it is, there it is, there it is.
-I was over the moon to see the dog was well
and uninjured, to be honest. It was good news.
Seemingly no worse the wear for his fall,
but wary of his rubber-clad would-be rescuers,
every time the crew get near him, Spice swims the other way.
We approached him quite gently, just not to scare him,
calling out his name, being quite softly spoken.
"Come on, Spice, here we go. Come on, babe, get in the boat."
With no other option, Matthew decides to take the plunge.
As I swam to the dog, he kept trying to turn and swim away from me,
so I just grabbed the back of its neck and sort of dragged it
back to the boat and, luckily, it didn't bite me.
Luckily, it was quite happy to see us.
Ready? One, two, three.
-Come on, sit down. Sit.
Come on, babes.
Go on, sit down.
When we went to rescue the dog,
I thought it was a girl because my dog's a girl
so it was just a bit of a habit
and as soon as we got it on board the Y-boat,
I felt something underneath... which confirmed it wasn't.
Hello, puppy! Hello!
Tenby lifeboat. Tenby lifeboat.
Yeah, all received. We'll go to Stackpole. Over.
40 minutes after his fall, Spice is safely in the Y-boat.
Come here. Good girl. Or good boy!
The Y-boat came back towards us with a dog on it
and you could see this dog was literally...
..happy, tongue out, wagging.
So I thought, "There you are."
-Oh, you're good!
You think of them very much as a family pet.
There were so many people up on the cliff looking down and lots of
families themselves, you could see the relief of everyone all round.
HE CLICKS HIS TONGUE
Come on, then.
Spice can finally be reunited with his owners.
-You're more than welcome, you're more than welcome.
Have you got his lead?
Yes, it's going on and never coming off.
What are you doing, dog? What are you doing?
-You absolute spanner!
-You look all right, don't you?
Good job you're strong, isn't it?
The dog was ecstatic.
The tail was wagging and off she went, she was over the moon.
Thank you so, so much.
-Back to work now.
-A happy dog!
While Tenby is one of the busiest stations...
..one of the quietest is also the most northerly.
Perched on the edge of the Shetland Isles, here at the village of Aith.
21 miles from Lerwick, her sister station in the East,
Aith was opened in 1933.
It keeps guard over the West Coast
and thousands of square miles of open Atlantic Ocean beyond.
To describe Shetland...
It's a beautiful place on a beautiful day.
But, oh, my, it's a terrible place in the winter time in a storm.
The winds gust up to 100mph.
I think the Shetland people are probably a wee bit hardier
than some other places.
We're used to the elements.
We've gotten used to it over the years.
Aith may be a relatively quiet station,
averaging between eight to ten shouts a year,
but when things go wrong in these seas, they can go very wrong indeed.
It can be pretty violent here.
The most I've seen is probably 70, 75-foot waves.
You feel very insignificant in it, yeah.
Now, what's happening?
Since it opened, three families have been the backbone of the station.
Hylton from the Henry family is the current coxswain -
a full-time skipper of the lifeboat.
His brother, Kevin,
has spent the last 31 years as the station's mechanic.
Here in Aith, you grow up with the lifeboat.
You knew you didn't have to go and look for it.
It was part of your life and if you were an able-bodied boy
who liked the sea, the first thing you did was join up
when you became of age.
-You've been far today?
-No, I've not been far.
Hylton and Kevin joined as teenagers,
following in the footsteps of their dad,
who also held the position of coxswain.
Though the institution's unwritten code
meant they all didn't go on shouts together.
You wouldn't overload the boat with too many of the one family,
just in case it went wrong.
If anything did happen to the lifeboat,
then you wouldn't be losing three out of a family.
But since their dad retired,
Hylton and Kevin have been on nearly every shout together.
One, in August 2013, made headline news.
Three people are missing after a helicopter
ditched in the sea west of Shetland.
It's thought the helicopter was carrying workers back
from an offshore platform.
Its on-board liferafts were found nearby, empty.
15 people have been rescued and taken to hospital.
The hunt for three more is now getting desperate.
The searchers will continue throughout the night.
Over the next few hours,
Coastguard search and rescue helicopters
and two lifeboats from Lerwick and Aith
comb the rocky coastline and waters around the crash site.
It was very shocking, really, to see the wreckage.
You knew what had happened but when you see something that
had been flying an hour or two before and was now completely...
..completely wrecked, upside down and smashing against the shore,
It wasnae good to see.
Four and a half hours after the crash,
two bodies have been recovered.
One person is still unaccounted for.
The Aith crew are requested
to search the wreckage of the helicopter itself.
You knew by that time that there was only one person missing
and there was a chance that that person was inside there,
so you had to treat it with respect.
We decided, "Well, if we can do anything,
"let's try to get this wreckage off the shore,"
because it was disintegrating in front of our eyes.
The first plan - attach a line round the helicopter's wheel.
But with the wreckage so close to the rocky shore,
it's too dangerous to get the lifeboat alongside.
Hylton has to resort to Plan B,
sending two men in the small inflatable Y-boat.
Battling the wind, the sea and the helicopter itself,
all pushing them towards the rocks, the two crew finally hook the wheel.
We got the rope on and passed it back to the lifeboat.
We just stayed in the Y-boat and moved clear of it when
and they started to tow it very slowly away from the shore
just to get it clear of the rocks.
It was very obviously vital
that they could keep the wreckage intact if they could.
It was a relief once...
..we got into sheltered water.
We held it until the coastguard arrived at five in the morning.
We passed our line to them and they held on to the wreckage.
With the wreckage secure, later that morning,
a diver was able to recover the last body.
It kind of brings it home to you, how...
..how fickle life is, kind of.
Just minutes from the airport and they ended up in the sea
and it's just one of those things that can happen, unfortunately.
When you do recover a body, you just have to...
..try and put it to the back of your mind and carry on with your job,
getting the body back to shore for the family, whatever.
You just have to do what you can.
In Shetland, everybody is desperate to retrieve
anybody that's lost at sea.
It was a significant rescue for us.
Although we didnae actually make any difference to the casualties,
we brought closure to the situation and hopefully the families,
they can grieve for four casualties.
Come and see Daddy's fish.
Having seen his fair share of the savagery of the sea,
Hylton is thinking about hanging up his boots.
It's OK on a fine day but when you get a storm
where it's very hard and physical on the body.
Although Hylton is still 11 years shy
of the recommended lifeboat retirement age of 65,
there comes a time when every crew member
begins to think about passing on the responsibility
to the next generation.
It's one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.
It's been a part of my life for so long.
But, hey-ho, time to move on.
After nearly 40 years,
his brother, Kevin, has already left the Aith crew due to ill health.
You really actually don't think about it when you're in the job.
It's been part of our lives and it's just a thing that we did
and we've always done.
It's a funny feeling watching the boat go,
or looking down the pier when the bleeper goes off
and the new fellow who's in my place,
he's the first man aboard the boat.
That would have been me just doing that.
It's a funny feeling but we've gotten used to it now.
It's... It's OK.
Change is never good sometimes.
They're good guys coming up below us, so...
..I'm sure it'll be in safe hands - that's the main thing.
Back at Bangor in Northern Ireland,
one of the longest-serving volunteers here is John Bell.
For the last 23 years, when he's not on a shout,
he's been serving up legal advice to the local community.
We could roll it to the far side of the holidays if you want.
On a normal day at the office, if the pager does go off,
it's a bit like Jason Bourne in the Bourne Identity.
He starts running, jumping over desks to get out.
I immediately have to check his diary for any imminent appointments
that would have to be cancelled,
but most of our clients now would be very understanding
because they do know that John is a volunteer with the RNLI
and that this could be a life-or-death situation.
A June day in Bangor.
The lifeboat crew have been called out.
I was at work when the pager went off and I remember the date
because it was my wedding anniversary and, at lunchtime,
I was going to go and buy a card and a gift for my wife.
All the information they have is that someone has fallen
from the seafront somewhere along the coast.
An ambulance is on its way, but as the casualty is by the water,
the Bangor crew have been paged, too, as backup.
Clear, Mickey. All clear.
The first thing you're thinking -
"How severe, how bad is the casualty?
"What injuries have they received?
"Are they young, are they old? Are they male or female?"
We didn't have that information at the time.
All we knew is that someone had fallen from the promenade
and we were tasked to go round to assess the situation.
The crew head along the shore at top speed, scanning the coastline.
We still didn't actually know exactly where the incident happened.
We were told it was on the rocks.
As soon as we came out of the harbour,
I can remember looking for signs of anyone,
signs of the Coastguard truck being there, signs of an ambulance,
signs of anyone waving for help.
Three minutes after launching, they spot an ambulance.
On the shore below is the female casualty.
-Your exact location, please?
-Where the houses start.
We didn't know what we were going in to do, how we could help.
We still had no idea what was wrong with her
or what we were going to go in and do.
Mickey, come on in here, it's sandy.
Come on in, Mickey.
OK, go on in. You're all right, Mickey.
A 60-year-old local woman, Geraldine,
has fallen six feet from the esplanade onto the beach below.
My phone rang and it was my mum and all she said on the phone was,
"Tricia, I've had an accident."
I never heard her like that before.
It was the fear in her voice.
You know, she was frightened.
I just shouted for my son, "Come on quick, Nanny's had an accident."
No time even to get shoes.
He came running out in his bare feet
and we were with her in around ten minutes.
Geraldine? We're going to roll you back onto this metal stretcher.
The casualty was on her back
on quite large stony, shingly type stuff,
and was in a tremendous amount of pain.
I think it was the way she'd fallen was the problem.
She'd fallen very badly.
If she'd been another 100 yards down the beach,
she'd have fallen on to sand,
but just where she fell wasn't a good place to fall.
SHE YELPS IN PAIN
Seeing the amount of pain she was in, you realise,
this woman has a serious spinal injury.
Geraldine, I'm Gillian.
-I've arrived with the good stuff!
As the ambulance crew work to stabilise Geraldine,
concern is growing about her condition.
Anybody falling from that height could have spinal injuries,
head injuries, leg injuries, could be bleeding internally.
This lady can't lie here for too much longer.
We need to evacuate her and take her to the hospital
for a proper assessment.
You tell me, where's the worst pain?
In your back? OK.
But getting Geraldine off the beach is no easy task.
With possible spinal damage,
any unnecessary movement risks more serious injury.
And between her and the ambulance is a vertical wall.
The only way up is a narrow set of steps 100 metres away.
Someone else is coming now.
Everyone was working to stabilise Geraldine
and to make her as comfortable as possible.
I was trying to reassure Geraldine that she was OK
and that she was in good hands and there was a great team of people
there to help her.
Are you starting to feel that, Geraldine?
Yeah, it should be doing something, I would have thought, now.
-I've given you plenty.
-While all of that was going on,
we were trying to decide what was the best way
to transfer her to the ambulance.
Even tiny movements were so painful...
that trying to walk up the beach
or to walk up through the stones and the rocks,
or to try and hoist her up...
..the risks would have been quite great.
The emergency services need to come up with a plan
to get Geraldine into the ambulance as fast and safely as possible.
Do you want to put her on our boat, guys?
The slip here at Ballyhome just where the wee battery is,
there's a gangplank coming down there.
That's where we'll bring her, to there?
And it's nice and easy and gentle to bring her up, OK?
You go over there, yeah. Brilliant.
It would be handier than going along here.
John's plan is to evacuate Geraldine on the lifeboat
and take her to a nearby jetty
where she can be smoothly transferred into the ambulance.
Geraldine, I've got your hand
and we're going to go gently into another stretcher. OK?
One, two, three, there we go.
-SHE CRIES OUT IN DISCOMFORT
Geraldine, that's it, that's the hard bit done, OK?
It's now down to the Bangor crew to get the casualty to safety
but every small movement is agony for Geraldine.
You're in the stronger stretcher now, Geraldine.
OK? You're fine.
She was scared and I can remember John just holding her hand
and reassuring her.
You're fine, just squeeze my hand, you're good.
Even as a child,
you go straight to your mum's hand so she went straight for John's hand
and John was reassuring her that everything's going to be OK
and we're all here to help.
What we're going to do now in a wee second is we're going
to carry you gently down and lie you across the back of our boat
and then we'll go nice and smooth just over to the slip,
where it's nice and gentle to carry you up, OK?
-All right, guys?
One, two, three, lift.
-Keep it level.
While John reassures a terrified Geraldine,
they begin the tricky transfer.
Are you all right, Geraldine?
I've still got your hand, Geraldine.
We're just going to lift your feet up a wee touch. OK?
You're OK, Geraldine.
One, two, three.
Just gently we'll slide across. That's it.
Geraldine, I'm going to let go of your hand, I can't reach, pet.
I'll get it in a wee second, OK?
Just going to move you.
-OK. You guys there, I'm going to...
Helmsman Mickey must get Geraldine the few hundred metres to the jetty.
But he's more used to using the lifeboat's 230 horsepower
to punch through rough seas,
and this is a delicate manoeuvre.
Being at the helm, I've got to look at all the dangers
that may be there.
From the point of view of everybody on board the boat,
the casualty position.
What may be coming behind me.
Is there anybody else at sea behind me?
Waves coming in?
And basically manoeuvre the boat in a safe speed and manner.
We're transporting somebody with potentially a life-changing injury
that could leave that lady in a wheelchair for the rest of her life.
Yeah, you're going to get... Yeah.
Come on, right in, Mickey.
Yeah. Looking good.
Go on up, you've got loads of depth.
The further you go up, the less we'll have to carry her.
For the tricky transfer from the boat to the jetty,
John is still on hand to reassure Geraldine.
I'm here. You OK?
-She wants to know your name.
John. You're fine, Geraldine.
Even with Mickey driving, we did a good job!
-Thank you so much.
How many grandkids have you, Geraldine?
-Good gracious, there'll be some stories for them!
I'm going to walk up with you, Geraldine.
All right, Geraldine.
Just keep feeding her back.
Let me go past you there, Richard, a wee second.
Geraldine, I'll grab that wee hand again in a second, dear.
THEY ALL CHATTER
-Somebody else on this side.
-You're all the way there.
Pick a side, guys. You want to pick the same one.
Finally, Geraldine's ready for the last leg of her journey to hospital.
It all began when she was walking the dogs along the promenade.
One, chasing a ball over the edge, pulled her with him.
You're so close now, Geraldine.
You knew you were crashing down
and the rocks below you were going to be your bed.
And that's what happened.
On three. One, two, three. Lift!
That's it, we're going up.
Yeah, we're good.
I went down and the pain just was automatically right through me.
Excruciating. Pain like I've never felt in my life.
That's you there.
I knew then, you know, it's not just a wee thing.
I'm not walking away from this.
You knew you weren't going to walk away from it.
Sorry for the trouble.
Geraldine, no trouble.
That's what we're here for. That's what we train for.
John Bell just told me I would be all right. I would be all right.
"Don't move, I'm here," and he held my hand and, to this day,
I can feel John Bell holding my hand.
Out of all the things that happened on the beach,
that was what she could remember.
We had to fill her in on bits but that was what she could remember,
was John Bell's hand.
Everybody that day done their duty but...
..John Bell was just that...
My angel, that's what I called him.
The time arrives for Geraldine to give John back his hand.
-You'll be fine, pet.
Take care, dear.
Geraldine said thank you many times.
She refers me as her angel, which...
..the crew all took great delight in!
I played a part in her rescue and I kept her spirits up
but everyone worked very well together,
so it shows how the teamwork pays off.
Geraldine's fall fractured a vertebrae in her back.
Her short trip on the Bangor lifeboat was the beginning
of a long road to recovery.
But today, a year later,
she's well enough to visit John at the station.
I am doing well.
I will never forget the feel of your hand in mine.
You're still my angel, I will tell you that.
Thank you. Honestly, Geraldine, you're looking great.
I would have made this journey down here today if I had to crawl down.
I'm happy. I'm happy to have got the chance to see them.
I will never forget them and, every day of my life,
I will thank them for what they've done for me.
And four years after being rescued by the Hunstanton hovercraft,
Molly and Daisy don't let the experience put them off
spending a day at the beach.
I enjoy the water now.
I have fun swimming but I sort of try and check the tide times more
and be a bit more wary of it.
I've just learned to respect it a bit more.
After the event, I knew for a fact
that I didn't want to become scared of the sea.
I won't put myself in that situation again
but I don't want to be in fear or something.
The RNLI kept us a family.
Without them, our lives would not be the same at all.
You could see on everyone's faces
that they were all panicking for their friend.
She was just barely talking.
She was obviously in a lot of pain.
People say they've never been frightened of the sea.
Well, they're dangerous people
because we've all been frightened at sea.
-Watch your foot.
-Can you still hear me?
-He's still there.
-It's very scary.
I think he was very close to death.
Dave, stay with us. Don't give up on me now, all right?
Every day around the UK, an army of unpaid volunteers put their lives on the line to try and save complete strangers. Saving Lives at Sea tells the story of the ordinary men and women of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) who, across the country, are ready to launch their boats and race to the rescue within minutes of a cry for help - 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, whatever the weather. Using footage shot on crews' own cameras, this series takes us right into the heart of the action, capturing the unpredictable work of the RNLI in never-before-seen detail.
In Bangor, Northern Ireland, crew are tasked to find two teenage paddleboarders blown offshore towards nearby shipping lanes. When the Tenby crew learn a dog has fallen over steep cliffs, there is a race to reach him before concerned members of the public attempt to rescue him themselves. And on the north Norfolk coast, the harrowing hovercraft rescue of three young sisters still brings back painful memories for the Hunstanton crew.