An unseasonably busy weekend for the volunteer crew of Eastbourne Lifeboats saw them launch five times plus an additional standby in temperatures hovering around freezing in a biting Northerly wind.
At 19.42 on Friday evening the inshore lifeboat (ILB) was requested to launch to conduct a shoreline search for a missing person, thought to be in distress, last seen on the clifftop at Beachy Head. A full scale search followed which involved local coastguard teams, a police helicopter and the search and rescue helicopter from Gosport. With nothing found and the helicopters running short of fuel the search was abandoned after two hours. Shortly before midnight the ILB was tasked again when reports were received that a small yacht looked to be in difficulties near the entrance to Sovereign Harbour. When on scene the yacht’s skipper appeared to be disorientated but refused all offers of assistance. He was encouraged to anchor for the night and received safety advice from the ILB helmsman.
At lunchtime on Saturday the ILB was again paged to assist coastguard rescue helicopter 163 with the recovery of a body from the beach at Beachy Head.
At 14.53 the volunteer ILB crew were tasked to assist the rescue helicopter again when one of a group of base jumpers at Beachy Head suffered serious injuries when his parachute got entangled during his descent. He was given expert care by the ILB team before being airlifted by the helicopter and taken to the Sussex County Hospital at Brighton. The rest of the base jumpers were then escorted along the beach to Birling Gap where they were met by local coastguards.
The weekend ended on a high note when the ILB was tasked on Sunday morning to search for a Cocker Spaniel called Ben which had fallen from the cliffs at Whitbread Hollow. Miraculously the dog survived the fall and was collected by the crew and passed to local coastguards at Holywell who reunited him with his distraught owner.
Later on Sunday evening both boats were launched in a fruitless search for a paddle boarder, the call eventually was presumed to be a false alarm with good intent.