Documentary series following the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. The Tenby crew race to a kayaker with suspected back and neck injuries after being caught out by a freak wave.
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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.
It can change in an instant -
and when accidents happen, they happen very fast.
The sea is a dangerous place.
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, a daughter, a 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...
-Is my light flashing?
-Yeah, is mine?
..the crews give us a unique insight into every call out
as only they see it...
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.
The sandy beaches and rugged coastline of Tenby in South Wales
have been drawing in tourists for over 200 years.
The Victorians were content to swim and paddle,
but today's visitors are more likely to push the boat out.
There's always something new,
like, the newest big thing that could be on the water.
Obviously, we get windsurfers down here, we get surfers down here,
there'll be another big thing in a minute,
and that'll be something else that goes on the water that people buy,
ready for the summer.
People that live here and are around it all year, they respect the sea.
Now, many people that come on holiday are not aware of that,
and they get in trouble.
A beautiful morning towards the end of the season.
The Tenby lifeboat crew is paged.
A 55-year-old woman has been caught in a kayaking accident.
It's believed she may have sustained injuries to her back and neck.
Phil came in,
he'd obviously heard what the call was.
We're always urgent - but it was really urgent.
It was flat calm, it was sunny, it was a lovely day.
There wasn't much sea.
I remember thinking, "How could sustain those kind of injuries
"in those kind of conditions from a kayak?"
The Tamar lifeboat is launched in under ten minutes.
The crew head to the cliffs of Stackpole Head,
ten miles down the coast.
I know where Stackpole Head is, and I can visualise,
but I don't know the actual scenario she's in.
I could feel the groundswell, it was a calm day, nice day -
but there was a bit of heave in the water.
It just starts playing on your mind,
sort of, "When we get there, what are you going to do?
"Who's doing first aid?"
Anything can change. The weather could change.
The wind might pick up, and it might start to get choppier,
which is harder to get the casualty aboard.
You don't know the full detail until you get on site.
At a top speed of 25 knots,
it takes nearly 20 minutes to reach the injured woman.
No two jobs are the same. It can make things difficult,
because what you had last time
isn't necessarily what you're going to get this time.
As the crew reach the cliffs, they find a cluster of kayaks.
Lying on top of one of them is the casualty, surrounded by her friends.
The kayaks sort of parted, like the Red Sea,
and we could see the casualty.
All right? Are you all right?
We went straight over to her,
just to make initial communications with her.
Well, you stay as still as you can, my love. My name's Geoff
-and we're here to take you home, all right?
You could see on everyone's faces
that they were all panicking for their friend.
They all knew the casualty,
and they were obviously all concerned for her welfare.
I was pleased that she was talking, because I thought that was
a...a good sign.
She could breathe, because she was talking.
She kept complaining of pain,
sort of around her neck and on her back.
You just feel so useless, because you can't do anything,
and you have nothing to offer her -
and I wasn't even sure that she could hear me,
because I think she was concentrating so much
on the pain she was in.
It was difficult. It was hard.
Can you just tuck your arm inside, so it doesn't get caught
-on anything, all right, darling?
-Keep it warm.
At the time, we were suspecting back injury and head injury,
which is the two worst, sort of, injuries you can be faced with
when you're transferring casualties.
SHE CRIES OUT IN PAIN
You always go for the worst case. Always go for the worst case.
Move her as little as possible, and only move her when you need to.
Any bump or jolt could cause Libby further damage or even paralysis...
Thank you very much, guys.
..but unless she can be lifted onto the lifeboat,
she won't get the specialist medical treatment she needs.
Being that she was on the kayak,
it wasn't an ideal position to be in.
She obviously wasn't laid flat.
The kayak didn't have many handles on it for lifting it -
but to try and transport it from the kayak into a stretcher,
whilst being in the sea ourselves, would have been a big no-go.
So it was decided the best course of action was to keep on the kayak
for the time being, use that as a backboard.
We're going to put your head up first, all right?
It takes four crew to lift Libby to deck level.
One... Two... Three!
SHE SCREAMS IN PAIN
-That's it. Now, that's it.
She looked quite pale.
She was shaking. She was just barely...barely talking.
She was obviously in a lot of pain.
With the nature of her injuries still unknown,
the coastguard has scrambled urgent medical assistance.
The fastest way to get to hospital is via helicopter.
The coxswain maintained his speed,
and the paramedic from the helicopter
was winched down and landed on the deck.
So, what were going to have to do, guys,
I want to get her wet suit off her completely,
so once I've finished what I'm doing now, we'll cut down the legs,
and then we're going to look at moving her.
Now, I'm just going to feel around your back...
A bit further down...
I'll do the legs, you do the kayak...
We're going to lift her up on three, and drag the kayak at first count.
One, two, three, lift.
That's it. Keep her in the air.
There was no way that she was going to be winched on the kayak,
so it has to be in the stretcher.
It's a matter of getting a lot of people around her,
so that we can lift her in a way that is supportive,
and that she doesn't really move
from transferring from one position in a stretcher to another.
One, two, three, lower.
-There we go.
She was in a lot of pain.
You could see she was in a lot of pain.
I think she was frightened. She was a brave woman, mind.
She... She listened to us, she communicated with us.
OK, so blanket over.
Libby's already spent more than 30 minutes in severe pain...
but after her time in the water,
her body temperature has dropped significantly.
Airlifting her in this state would increase the likelihood
of her developing hypothermia.
Pick them up.
The paramedic decides to delay taking Libby to hospital
till her temperature starts to rise.
We brought one of her friends on board from the...from her kayak,
just to reassure her.
You want a friendly face when you're scared and in need of help.
I just kept saying, everything's going to be all right, now,
everything's going to be all right, and just squeezing her hand.
Let me know as soon as that winch is ready.
Finally, after 20 minutes, Libby's core temperature has begun to climb.
Overhead, the Coastguard helicopter flies into the wind
at the highest speed possible, to maintain stability.
The swell's going to be the most awkward thing for them.
Yeah, yeah, totally.
At the helm, coxswain Phil must match the heading and speed,
while keeping the lifeboat deck as steady as possible.
OK, so that's good, that one's good.
The helicopter's pretty stable,
but the lifeboat's going up and down on the seas.
Just to help the situation, we lifted the...
We lifted Libby up to a position level with the rail.
It seems like quite a snatch from-from the boat,
and it's-it's almost unavoidable.
It's probably quite scary.
You always think, you know, what's going to happen now
is, you know, is it just a bit of bruising?
Is it, you know, is she just cold?
Or, you know, is she, you know, genuinely hurt?
And you always hold out for the call that you're going to find out
what happens - and sometimes you don't,
and, you know, sometimes you do.
Libby had been in Tenby enjoying a girls' weekend
with a group of friends.
They'd hired kayaks for the day
and had gone out with experienced instructors.
As Libby took her turn to navigate a gap in the rocks,
she was caught by a freak wave.
It is the scariest thing that's ever happened to me, I think.
The doctors told me...
..how...what the state of my injuries were.
Well, I'd broken seven ribs, five of them in two places,
so had a total of 12 fractures...
..and there was one chap there whose hand I was holding really tight!
And I'm sure he didn't have any fingers left
by the time I'd been holding his hand,
because I was holding it so tight.
You feel blessed that you were there.
You feel humbled that you were able to get there in time
and help her, basically.
She was a very strong and a tough woman.
I would have made a lot more noise than she did, God love her.
I wouldn't mind going there again,
just stand and watch the waves and see whether it WAS just a freak wave
or whether, you know, whether I was just unlucky -
but I think that the sea is just so unpredictable
that you can never tell.
All seamen will tell you that the sea's unpredictable.
It's the nature of it.
Around the country, all volunteers attend regular training sessions
to prepare for whatever the sea can throw at them.
From recovering a capsize...
One, two, three.
..to casualty care...
..but however long you've been learning the ropes,
there are some events that no-one can predict or plan for.
You've got to kind of switch common sense off,
because things aren't predictable at sea.
You know, you've got the waves,
you've got the wind, you've got...
a 30-plus-tonne lifeboat pitching and rolling.
Common sense just doesn't go how you want it to when you're at sea.
You might think it might be a nice, easy call-out
and maybe halfway through it, something else might happen, and...
everything changes on a call-out.
You're never guaranteed an easy call-out.
We've been known to rescue a goat
down near Lynmouth that had been stuck on the cliff
and actually got an award
from the Feral Goat Society for rescuing this particular goat,
so, any animal is a good rescue.
We were called out to a Viking ship one day,
just up the coast, I think it was about five mile up the coast,
they were in difficulty,
and it's the strangest thing that we'd ever gone.
They're all kitted out with Viking hats and swords,
it was some kind of re-enactment.
Go and get dressed, yeah?
You can actually think you're going out to one job,
and you can actually end up doing another job.
We went out to a helicopter job last year
and we actually ended up going out to a sinking fishing boat.
Oh, for sure, it definitely makes things unpredictable.
When the pagers go off, it can literally be anything.
UK and Ireland's rocky beaches and sandy shores
provide food and shelter
to all manner of fur, feather and fins - both locals and tourists.
In Devon, the Dart estuary sits in a deep-sided river valley,
in which a grey seal colony, otters,
and even the occasional dolphin has made its home...
..but earlier this year, its biggest visitor to date made national news.
A moment that will live with a 12-year-old forever.
Most people have never seen a humpback whale in the UK,
so Slapton became a viewing hot spot.
20-foot humpback whales are normally found in the waters off Scandinavia
or New England, but, to the town's surprise, this one stayed.
I'm not sure why it was in the area at all.
It just suddenly appeared,
and it stayed for ages.
I think it just liked Dartmouth.
The crew at Dart lifeboat station are answering an emergency call.
It's rookie volunteer Katy's third shout.
I was actually in work, about to leave, and then it went off,
and then I was... quickly ripped the apron off.
I thought, "What's going to be faster, the car or run?"
And I just decided to run.
Chris was there already, and I said, "What is it?"
And he said, "The whale's got stuck." Couldn't believe it.
While trying to feed in the shallows of a nearby bay,
the Dartmouth whale's become trapped
in fishing lines attached to whelk pots.
Unless he can be freed quickly,
he could be seriously injured or even drown.
-Will you be able to send your team up along the beach?
Reach across, we've got some rope down here you can grab hold of.
Five miles up the coast,
a team of divers specialising in marine life rescue
has also been called in.
The plan, to get them as close as possible to the whale
so they can cut him free from the fishing lines.
For the crew, it means placing the lifeboat carefully over the whale
as he thrashes below, and holding position.
When we got close enough to the whale,
the whale rescue guys had asked that we cut the engine...
and we were actually holding on to the pot and, pretty much,
when she came up out of the water,
any way you looked around the boat was just whale,
so she seemed pretty big in comparison to our boat.
That's going straight from there onto the tail.
-Which means that these wraps and the pots
are going straight down to the bed.
Yeah. Tying around.
Already several hours into his ordeal,
the whale's becoming increasingly agitated by the ropes.
You just see it, obviously, coming up
every kind of three to five minutes,
and then it got... like, the gap got smaller,
so it was more every two minutes.
You could just see netting around it, really,
and obviously it was very distressed.
It was a fair chunk of weight for it to be towing.
Of course, while it's towing it, all the buoys are...
all the pots are bouncing on the bottom, getting entangled.
The whale probably weighed 15-20 tonnes,
and our boat was about five-and-a-half metres.
To know that that animal could swipe you out the boat
with one flick of its tail, terrifying.
In the small lifeboat, it's too dangerous to proceed.
We needed to come up with a better plan,
which, to me, meant more manpower and maybe a more stable platform.
The fishing boat that radioed in the alarm is still in the area,
so the crew take a different tack.
The new strategy - hoist the whale's tail as high as possible
out of the water
while a diver waits for it to rise, armed with a sharp knife.
It was a very tense few moments on the boat.
Um, something we'd never trained for, so it was brand-new,
I think even the marine life divers,
although they're trained in whale rescue,
this is the first one they'd actually been to.
On any job, but especially with animals,
you don't know how they are going to react, especially in distress.
Things can go wrong very, very quickly.
Your nerves are jangling at that point.
If a 20-tonne whale decides it wants to go somewhere else,
there's not a lot nine blokes are going to do about it, unfortunately.
Come on, guys!
It felt very tense, watching what was going on.
It got so close each time.
It got so close, and we just wanted it to happen.
It's quite an adrenaline buzz.
I felt quite humbled, actually,
being so close, to help such a large animal.
Everybody was pulling with all their might.
The whale surfaced more and more rapidly.
The final one, we knew it had been done because it just went,
it just really went.
There it is!
It felt like a once-in-a-lifetime thing.
I think any rescue is very rewarding, but this one,
it was special and it will always be special.
We've been on several shouts where we've saved lives
and done dramatic things and nothing has ever been said,
but all of a sudden, after this shout,
a lot of people have mentioned, "Oh, I heard you saved the whale!"
At the most westerly point of the mainland,
the cliffs of Land's End have been carved out by powerful waves,
rolling in off the Atlantic Ocean.
The waters here are patrolled by two crews,
Sennen Cove and the Penlee team based in Newlyn.
The area is a magnet for surfers and holiday-makers,
many oblivious to the fact they are just miles from some of the busiest
shipping lanes in the country.
Ships are going around there,
carrying all sorts. Chemicals, tankers, oil.
The coastline tells its own story of how dangerous the water here can be.
The land sticks out into the Atlantic
and is a corner, really foreboding.
That's Poldark country, if you like.
Mainly it's granite rocks.
Granite cliffs, so if you get washed ashore,
then only one thing will happen.
That is, the boat is going to get smashed to pieces.
3am - Penlee's 16-strong crew is paged by the coastguard.
I picked my best crew that had turned up,
picked the most experienced guys, and off we went.
Eight miles away, the team at Sennen Cove
is also pulled from their sleep.
Right, guys, one, two, three.
Turning somebody out of their bed at three o'clock in the morning,
as on this occasion,
and jump in the seat and be able to navigate
within ten minutes of being asleep
and dreaming of a Caribbean island or something,
it is a big ask.
Three miles south of Gwennap Head, a 3,500-tonne coaster,
laden with cargo and fuel has suffered engine failure
and broken down.
Her anchor is no longer holding, and a strong south-westerly wind
has started to push her towards the shore at a rate of a mile an hour.
The two crews now have just 2.5 hours
to stop her breaking up on the local cliffs.
I felt, this is not going to be an easy job.
If a ship ends up on a piece of coast like that,
he won't be getting off again.
Environmentally, it's a disaster.
Making best speed of 25 knots, both crews race to the scene.
We get on with Sennen, we've got a good relationship with Sennen
and there is a bit of friendly rivalry.
They're a right bunch down there, down Newlyn.
We've got the bigger boat,
but I expect Terry will say he's got a better boat.
Their boat is bigger than ours,
but our propeller has got five blades,
they've only got four.
When it comes to saving people's lives,
what bit of friendly rivalry you might have
just goes out the window when it's a job like that.
I know most of the crew - they're good as gold.
They're a good station.
25 minutes after launching,
the two crews get their first glimpse of the job in hand.
A coaster called the Lady Alida, all 3,500 tonnes of her.
I was thinking,
we might need a bigger boat!
Because of the way the wind was, and the strength of the wind,
she was drifting quite quick.
On the Penlee lifeboat, Patch has come up with a plan.
He wants to buy time by towing the coaster into deeper water
until a tug boat can reach her and deliver her safely into port.
Patch needs Terry in the Sennen Cove boat to agree.
Terry's initial reaction was,
he wasn't so sure whether we should or not.
We tow plenty of stuff but we rarely tow anything that big.
I knew that we had no choice, really,
because there was only one way that she was going to go if we couldn't.
The Penlee and Sennen Cove volunteers agree to work together
to bring the 88-metre wall of welded steel under control.
Both lifeboat crews need to find a position in front of the bow
so that lines can be thrown to the Alida's waiting crew -
but if they get too close, their own boats could be crushed.
One minute you're airborne and then you come down with a crash,
and then you go on again.
It's not a pleasant place to be when it's rough
and you've got pressure on to try and get to someone who's in trouble.
Just a question of timing, really.
You can feel you're not going to make it when the ship rose up
on the top of the sea - it's just waiting for it to drop back down,
and when you feel happy that you can make the throw, throw it.
Both lifeboat crews managed to throw their tow lines at the first attempt
but they still don't know if they have enough combined power
to pull the ship to safety.
We started to try and turn the boat 180 degrees
to get it pointing in the right direction.
We weren't even sure if we were going to be effective -
whether our boat would actually even move this boat.
It's quite hard, really, to train to tow vessels that sort of size,
but I did have my doubts whether we would be able to move it or not,
I must admit.
Gradually the coaster starts to turn.
With both lifeboats side by side, the slow tow out to sea begins.
It took two boats.
We would have struggled on our own.
When it's dark, you lose a sense of bearings, as well,
so you don't exactly always know which way you're going
and which way is left or right,
so you just get a little bit disorientated.
It was quite easy for one lifeboat to drift away from the other one
and go off at a larger angle.
Finally, after almost three hours,
the crews reach safe deep water five miles offshore.
The Lady Alida is able to drop anchor
and wait for the tug to arrive.
It was really good, the way the boats worked together.
Both crews did a really good job.
There's a lot of satisfaction
when you come from two opposite directions
in the middle of the night and put two ropes on a ship
and get it out of trouble.
As day breaks, both lifeboat crews head back
to the Penlee boathouse in Newlyn.
We got back to Newlyn about six o'clock in the morning
and we were all planning what we were going to have for our fry-up.
Have a cup of tea.
I think I got through about half a cup.
Another page from the coastguard.
It's the Lady Alida.
Her skipper is reporting that she's beginning to drag her anchor again.
Meanwhile, the rescue tug has been delayed by bad weather.
To make matters worse, the coaster is back where she started,
2.5 miles from shore and drifting inwards.
Your priority is the safety of the ship and the people on it.
We did need to be back out there.
You don't want to see a ship going on the rocks.
I've seen a few and it's awful.
They're living things, as far as I'm concerned -
a boat's a living thing,
and to see one go on the rocks and smash up is awful.
Once again, the two lifeboat crews must throw their tow lines on board.
In the daylight, the scale of the task, and of the Lady Alida,
is even clearer.
It was a fair old size boat and she was rolling quite heavily, beam on.
Can we get a rope on it and can we hold her off?
People say they've never been frightened at sea -
well, they're dangerous people,
because we've all been frightened at sea.
For a second time, the crews begin the long tow back into deeper water.
You do get tired.
Yeah, I was a little bit jaded by that point.
Fatigue and lack of awareness are things that creep in,
particularly if you are called out in the early hours
when your crew would have been at work all the day before.
Maybe they've had a couple of hours' sleep.
That's when it's at its most dangerous.
All they want to do is get home.
It takes a further six hours before the crews are able to rendezvous
with the salvage tug brought in to retrieve the coaster.
It was a good job.
There's no doubt that we saved that vessel from going ashore,
without a doubt, so it was a good job.
When it comes to saving people's lives,
you're carrying on a tradition
and you're also representing your community.
Nearly 40 years ago,
an earlier generation of Penlee volunteers
were called to the aid of another drifting coaster.
It was the 19th of December 1981.
I remember it...
I remember it as if it was yesterday, really,
I think everyone does.
They'd been called to something fairly similar to what we'd had
with the Lady Alida. A ship called the Union Star...
..had difficulties, unable to manoeuvre, and was drifting ashore.
The Penlee lifeboat, known as the Solomon Brown,
went to her aid that night in hurricane conditions.
My dad was a trawler skipper.
He still says now that that was the worst weather that we've had, um...
..and he said that there hasn't been a night as bad as that since.
It was horrific.
The Solomon Brown attempted to get the crew off the Union Star
by going alongside.
The actual Solomon Brown lifeboat
got washed onto the deck of the Union Star.
They got some of them off
and went to attempt it again.
I think that's where it went horribly wrong, then.
The morning after,
the wreck of the Union Star was seen washed up on the cliffs.
There were no survivors.
The entire lifeboat crew was also lost at sea.
We drove through Mousehole the next morning
after we knew that a lifeboat had been lost,
and it was just people lining the streets.
It was horrible.
You could see bits of wreckage.
It was just horrible.
It was just a nightmare.
The Mousehole Christmas lights are dimmed for an hour
every year to honour the rescue that cost eight men their lives
and left ten children without their fathers.
What you think about on your shout
is the guys who were on the shout
and that you're following in their footsteps.
You just want to live up to their expectations, really.
You want to do the job right for them.
I think anyone...
..that can say they've been a cox in the Penlee lifeboat,
it's quite a big deal.
If you take that one, I'll take the heavy one.
Among nearly 5,000 volunteers,
many serve alongside members of their own families -
and it's never too early to start.
Can you point out the engine for me?
All right. OK, what horsepower is it?
-Where's the aerial?
Good stuff. Compass?
Ace. Where's the quoit?
Great. How many fuel tanks are there?
Greg is the helm of the Conwy lifeboat.
His ten-year-old daughter, Jasmine,
is already keen to find her own sea legs.
Everything I know about boats, he's taught me.
Just built my confidence with the water and the lifeboat things.
She'll have the training and she won't be able to go afloat
until she's passed the skills, so, no, I should be fine with it,
as long as she stays safe and looks after herself
and then, obviously, the others, they'll all look after her, as well.
I think it's a good tradition to follow,
and I think it must be a very proud moment when father and son
or father and daughter can get together
and share that experience hand-in-hand on the front line.
The lifeboat station here is on the River Conwy,
which leads onto a tidal estuary and a busy harbour
where many locals dock their boats.
On the surface, a tranquil setting - but looks can be deceiving.
We are very tidal, surrounded in sandbanks and local hazards,
rocks and currents,
so it makes it quite a challenging entrance to a harbour.
On a cold day at the end of January...
..a 70-year-old man has fallen into the marina and can't get out.
Somebody ends up in the water this time of year in Conwy,
certainly in the estuary, they're not there through choice,
they're there because there's an accident,
and they need help, and they're in danger.
In January, water temperatures can be as low as seven degrees.
Not only is the man at risk of drowning,
but hypothermia could set in within 15 minutes.
The conditions, especially that day,
it was very cold, so we knew that the casualty,
if they were in the water for a long period of time,
they didn't have a chance.
I was waiting outside my house for one of my friends to pick me up
to go and watch a local football game.
I only live round the corner from the station,
so it was about a 30-second run.
Have we got power on?
From the shower to actually hitting the water,
it was four minutes and 37 seconds, I think.
You can't really prepare for what you're going to.
The details you get given are... very limited.
The harbour is within sight of the lifeboat station,
but reaching the casualty quickly will still be a challenge.
The conditions on the river were quite choppy,
very unusually choppy for outside the lifeboat station.
A lot of spray coming into our face.
Once in the harbour,
the crew still need to locate the man
amongst up to 60 boats docked on the pontoons.
It is a complex searching area,
because the people could be trapped underneath the pontoon,
trapped underneath a boat,
trapped between boats.
Finally, the casualty comes into view.
OK, OK, I'll jump on.
An onlooker has managed to get a life belt to him...
Anything I can grab hold of?
..but he's wedged in against the boat,
weighed down by heavy clothing.
When we got to the casualty,
he couldn't talk to us, he was unresponsive.
The colour was very grey.
The 70-year-old man has now been in the water for 12 minutes,
his body temperature dropping rapidly.
We'll lose this life buoy and bring him up.
Greg decides to get one of his crew in alongside
to help keep him conscious.
OK, we need an ambulance.
As soon as I jumped in the water, I could feel the cold straightaway.
It hit me and I was in shock
but I knew I had to grab him so he didn't just give up and let go.
We'll lose this life buoy and bring him up.
-There's a lot of pressure on my shoulders
and the decisions I make could be life or death,
certainly for the casualty,
so I don't want to be getting it wrong.
I need an ambulance.
Yeah, it's on its way.
The casualty was a dead weight.
A heavy lift out, because he was wet,
but also it was the angle of us trying to pull him out
because we were over the side of a pontoon.
Finally, with the help of an onlooker,
the crew are able to heave the man clear of the water.
Are you OK? Can you hear me?
His muscles had all stopped working.
He was... He was lifeless.
We'll get you on the lifeboat and we'll get you somewhere warm
as quick as we can.
Keep going, keep going, keep going. Then get in the boat.
I think he was quietly slipping away.
A lot of people, when they see the orange,
they think help has got there,
they can now give up because they're going to be OK.
For the casualty, that was not the case
because hypothermia had kicked in.
The crew's biggest concern is to keep the man conscious.
If he falls asleep, his whole body could start shutting down.
Dave, can you still hear me?
-He's still there.
-Dave, keep talking to me, OK?
Keep talking to me.
Get the rope up.
I was very conscious of...
shouting at the casualty and keeping a good strong grip of him,
but I was also trying to drive the boat back to the slipway, as well.
Dave, keep talking to me.
It was very scary.
I think he was very close to death.
There should be an ambulance coming to us straightaway.
Are you feeling really cold? Yeah, do you know your name?
It was important that we kept on talking to him,
engaging with him, to keep the casualty awake.
How old are you, Dave?
-70? Really? You're not going to give up on me now, are you?
What's your grandkid's name, Dave?
Sioned? Very good, how old's Sioned?
Again, what's the name of that granddaughter of yours?
By talking about his family,
the casualty knows he's got something to fight for.
All right, Dave, we're just going to get into the boathouse now,
we're backing into the boathouse, getting you out of the wind, OK?
So, it should be a lot warmer in here now.
OK, Dave, keep on talking, mate.
The crew have reached the warm shelter of the lifeboat house
and the paramedics are on their way.
Ambulance on the top of the bridge.
-Dave, don't go to sleep, all right?
It's important you don't to sleep.
-Are you with me on that programme?
Good lad, well done.
-This is Holyhead coastguard,
can I have a sitrep on the casualty's condition, please?
-We're on the edge.
Less than eight minutes after they plucked him from the water,
the Conwy crew hand the casualty over to the care of the paramedics.
He hasn't lost consciousness.
-When we got there, he was very unresponsive.
He's picking up a bit now, opened his eyes,
talking a little bit better.
Do you reckon you can stand, Dave?
If we stand you up?
If we hold you?
OK. Can you...
I was very worried. Nobody likes to come across that, and see that,
and feel that experience of somebody slipping away in front of your eyes.
When the ambulance went, we didn't really know what the outcome
of that patient was going to be.
It was on my mind...
for a while after the call-out, what had happened to the casualty?
I mean, I did sort of contemplate what it would be like
just to let your eyes... just to close your eyes...
..but the only thing you've got to do,
hang on to that flipping rope for life.
David is a retired engineer with two children and five grandchildren.
He had been trying to step onto his own boat when he lost his footing
and fell into the harbour.
While I was hanging on to the rope,
hoping that the lifeboat would arrive,
and you're thinking, all the time, "Any time now, any time now,"
but when I saw it just in the right-hand side,
and I still had my glasses on, I just saw an orange flash go past.
That was the point in time when I knew, God,
that somebody is here to help.
How lucky was David? A scale of one to ten?
Probably about 11. His angels were definitely around him that day.
It was amazing to me to think...
..that only four or five hours ago, I was...
..dicing with the idea of, "Will I die, or will I get out of here?"
To about four or five hours later, maybe six hours later, thinking,
"I wonder what we're going to have for tea."
Shoreham-by-Sea, on the south coast, was once a small fishing port.
These days, visitors to the beach
can enjoy a gentler seaside experience
than the one up the road in busy Brighton.
Shoreham's shingle beach has been designated a nature reserve
for its unique vegetation.
The local crew are used to dealing with most of the challenges
the English Channel can throw at them.
We like to think that we're prepared
for everything here at Shoreham.
Most of the time we are.
On a mild afternoon at the end of March,
the coastguard has paged for assistance
after receiving 999 calls from worried members of the public.
I had no idea what I was coming to when I got into the station.
It was only once I came up and met some of the crew that were assembled
that they informed me there was an aircraft had come down into the sea.
I think a plane was the last thing I expected.
I just thought it would possibly be a towing or something like that,
I wasn't expecting a plane at all.
An aircraft has suffered engine failure and crash landed in the sea
en route to Shoreham Airport.
The crew have been told that the passengers were seen
climbing onto the wings
before jumping into the water and swimming safely to shore...
..but the abandoned plane is still a danger.
INDISTINCT RADIO COMMS
It was necessary to go and find the plane
because it was now afloat and drifting out to sea
and therefore could become a hazard to shipping and navigation.
On top of that,
the crew have no idea if it is leaking fuel into the water.
The plane went down two miles away, just off Lancing Beach.
Making your way down there,
you could have blinked and missed it.
If you didn't know there was a plane there, you wouldn't have known.
I can't see any pollution.
There is no fuel spillage to contain,
but the crew do have to work out how to get a 35-foot plane
weighing three quarters of a tonne
back to dry land.
Does he want us to try and tow it in?
Because it's floating.
-What's its call sign?
-I don't know, 08 Delta.
My concerns was what are we going to do with it
and how do you get a plane out of the water?
-There's the wings there.
-The tail fin here.
If we get a line around here, a hook on that little bit there.
Believe me, that bit's quite strong.
We just had to be cautious and not rush.
It's not something that happens every day, is it?
You get the chance to tow an aircraft.
Nice and slow...
OK, the weight is just about to come on, mate.
She's going, she's all right.
Lifeboats weren't really designed to pull planes,
and planes weren't really designed to travel through the sea.
Power wasn't an issue, it was more of a slow and steady.
It's definitely the first time I've towed a plane!
Done the odd jet ski, and boat, but nothing like a plane.
Not with a lifeboat!
Once in shallower water,
Mark and I were able to get out of the boat.
The water was just over knee deep,
and we could physically get hold of the aeroplane.
The wheels, by this time, were touching the ground.
After ten minutes, with the help of an outgoing tide,
the plane taxis onto the beach,
where a three-strong team of coastguards lend some extra muscle.
Keep it going, we've got a bit of soft sand here.
It's not every day you see a plane being dragged up the beach
by an RNLI crew, so, yeah, I think it raised a few smiles.
The aircraft looked...
pretty good, considering what had happened.
There was very little damage to it.
I think the crew of the plane were extremely lucky.
I don't know how he managed to do it, land it how he did,
because he was metres from the shingle beach.
It must have been a textbook landing, I think.
It looked as if it could just be refuelled and fly again.
I can't say I'd want to go back up in the plane
after it's been in the sea, though!
It was sort of like, "Oh, I just pulled a plane from the water!"
That was perfect, absolutely perfect.
Well done, lads.
200 miles down the south coast,
Salcombe in Devon is a fishing village that's become a hot spot
for well-heeled holiday-makers.
The lifeboat crew are used to dealing with emergency calls
from the great and the good...
It's a mix. Out on the sea, it could be the £100-boat man
or it could be the million pound super yacht.
You don't know who they are.
..but it's the first day of April,
the tourist season has barely kicked off,
and a call has already come in.
We thought it was all April Fool's but it was after midday
and he assured us it wasn't.
Just two weeks after its whelk pot emergency,
the Dartmouth whale has returned,
and it's entangled in fishing lines again.
This time, the Salcombe crew are paged to save the local leviathan.
The whale was up in Blackpool Sands again, so it's about 25 minutes,
30 minutes steam up there.
There's not really a lot you can do on the boat in preparation,
because you don't know what you're going to come across.
Southern coastguard, southern coastguard, Dart lifeboat, over.
Marine life rescue officers have also been recalled,
along with two members of the Dart lifeboat crew.
I know very little about whales.
I've seen one in the Natural History Museum but other than that,
I've never really been up close to a whale.
The whale could still move,
probably, 25 metre radius, I suppose.
It's still quite an area, so we had lookouts on the bow.
Chris was as high as possible to get a good view when we came in.
This time, the Dartmouth whale is in even more trouble.
He's enmeshed in more lines than before
and there's a danger the enormous weight of the whelk pots
will drag him down.
The whale was well and truly entangled.
I think there were various lines
around the tail and the fins and around the body.
It was pulling it around like you wouldn't believe.
You can't get over how strong an animal like that is,
even in a slightly weakened state.
It's amazing how the whale managed to swim and survive
with that amount of gear on it.
He was extremely worn out - and that became more apparent
the closer it got to us, because there were periods of time
where it just lay in the water doing nothing.
When it was coming to the surface and blowing,
it was almost like a scream.
It was a bit eerie, really.
Last time, a marine diver had to hang out of a boat
to cut the whale free...
..but the Salcombe team have a heavy-duty winch at their disposal.
Today's plan - to hoist the tangled rope up and out of the water
while a diver on a second boat
comes alongside to cut the whale free.
You've got to treat it like it's something you'd normally do,
so the things we'd normally do
is pull an anchor up or something like that,
so it's the same operation, it's just a different context.
Once we were committed to hauling the whale
and we had to keep on going,
we couldn't risk the lines parting off from the whale
and the whale swimming away still attached to gear.
If it did, it would have died, there's no two ways about it.
Marine divers have more than 20 tangled lines to hack through.
The boat could be looking up to the east one minute
and down to the west the next.
We really were being pulled around, because the whale had such power.
In exercises, we can tow the lifeboat with the smaller lifeboat
and it's quite a challenge -
but the whale was pulling it around with ease.
It was amazing, the amount of power it had.
I thought, "Oh, my God, it's too late," you know,
"It's had it."
Finally, after more than an hour...
Absolutely unforgettable moment.
Where else are you ever going to get the experience
to be there and have a humpback whale that needs rescuing?
So, yeah, what a great job!
No, we're not expecting to see it for a third time -
I'm pretty sure the collection tin the next day was a bit heavier
after people had found out about it.
I have to lift it in at the end of the day
and, yeah, definitely heavier.
Six months after her kayaking accident...
..Libby is back on her feet.
She and her group of friends are weighing up
what activity to try out next.
We have joked that we will be doing something a little less adventurous.
A spa weekend might be a better idea!
Falling into Conwy harbour hasn't put David off taking his boat out.
He and his partner Susan are planning to spend the summer at sea.
We like dabbling about on the water,
sort of living on the water, in that sense.
Take the paper with us, and some sandwiches and that.
Make a pot of tea.
It will be all right now.
He'll have a bit more common sense this time.
As for the Dartmouth whale, he is expected to make a good recovery.
We saw the whale swimming freely again,
and that was about three days later.
That's how you want to see them, not all caught up.
We have to go into danger
to get somebody out of that danger.
You're thinking to yourself, "What if, what if?"
Your concern is falling into the water between both boats.
First information was a guy was in a sailing boat,
sailing to America.
At sea, if you don't give it any respect, it will kill you.
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 south west Wales, the Tenby crew race to a kayaker with suspected back and neck injuries after being caught out by a freak wave. Neighbouring Cornish crews must join forces in an epic 11-hour battle to stop a 3,600-tonne coaster breaking up on the rocks. And the Dart and Salcombe crews are astonished to be paged to the biggest shout of their lives.